Plasma Active - a New Approach to Tablet Computing

Share, Like, Connect

Another new feature in Plasma Active is the presence of Share, Like and Connect buttons in the top panel. These make it easy to share content instantly, such as images, to social networks or on-line storage; "like" things on either social networks or locally (for example, bookmarking a page); and connect things together, such as linking a document or a page to the current Activity so that it always will be readily available in the future. This way, if you want quick access to an image, just click the Connect icon to add it as a widget on the desktop of the present Activity.

Figure 7. You easily can associate a file or Web page with an Activity by using the Connect button.

Open for Business

Plasma Active has been unusual among KDE projects due to the heavy involvement of companies from the start. Among these, basysKom has employed developers to work on Contour, the combination of Activities and Recommendations at the center of the user experience. Marco states that "everyone from the community is welcome to join and contribute, just like any other KDE project—companies are members of the community as well and are helping in many tasks (also the less fun ones in order to give to it the level of quality needed for an actual product)". Companies also are making it easy to try Plasma Active, with live images provided by basysKom and open-slx (see the Try Plasma Active Two sidebar).

Life after MeeGo

In the past, a large part of KDE's focus in the mobile space has been on MeeGo-powered devices, particularly those created by Nokia. However, the decision of Nokia to use Windows as the base for its smartphones and Intel's subsequent dropping of MeeGo in favor of its collaboration with Samsung, Tizen, has changed things. These changes do not, however, unduly concern the KDE developers. Aaron points out that "Plasma Active is not welded to any one OS and is highly portable", and indeed, there are "images with OpenSUSE, MeeGo and Mer kernels and userlands beneath the Plasma Active UI".

ARM devices running Android have proven to be very popular, and Plasma Active also is targeting some of this hardware, with an ARM-ready image already available built on software from the Mer Project. But what about Android itself? It is not presently the most appealing alternative for Marco, who argues that "Android, while released with an open-source license is tightly controlled by Google and doesn't leave much room for a developer community to grow and contribute". He does, however, acknowledge that Android "is a good platform indeed and we don't exclude some integration work with it in the future".

There also are possibilities of Plasma Active or related technologies targeting much more than just tablets. Aaron notes that already "some are running it on handset-style devices", but that "the current user experience has been designed with a tablet in mind". He plans, however, to start working on "interfaces that are designed specifically for other form factors, such as set-top boxes and handsets in the future". A key enabler for this is Plasma's design: "Plasma allows for multiple, and highly diverse, user interfaces without starting from scratch. Plasma Desktop, Netbook and now Active for tablets showcases this very nicely: they are all very different on the surface from each other, but share nearly all the implementation code beneath."

The Future of Plasma Active

Plasma Active is still young software. Plasma Active Two was released shortly before this article was written and is the version discussed here. Plasma Active Three is expected in summer 2012 and "will be focusing on new major feature and application introductions", according to Aaron. From a purely end-user perspective, the limited number of touch-friendly applications means Plasma Active is not ready yet. Nonetheless, it is well worth trying out and could become compelling by the time of its third release later this year. It already feels more polished and complete than any of the MeeGo tablet pre-releases.

There are other reasons to get excited about Plasma Active. For Marco, the motivation for starting work on Plasma Active had "different reasons, both purely technological and social ones". The social ones are perhaps best summed up by Aaron: "right now, there is too much focus on created devices that serve the owner of the application store and focus on consumption of new devices just for the sake of the newness of the device", something he believes has "largely stalled progress".

Aaron sees a different future for Plasma Active and those who choose to contribute to or use the software: "We should be looking at how to support people's lives and in doing so make them better. This needs to be done in a socially responsible manner, which means free and open-source software as well as open processes must drive the development. This is the point and purpose of Plasma Active."

Resources

Plasma Active: http://plasma-active.org

Plasma Active Installation: http://community.KDE.org/Plasma/Active/Installation

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We also have MsAccess97

Tyrwhittse's picture

We also have MsAccess97 around for one of those reasons. That reason is older webapps and older databases. Many companies don't want to pour resources (read money) into auto tools updating the software. While I understand having had to support such apps in the past, the risks with not upgrading are far more expensive. How many companies have policies, procedures, and filtering software setup explicitly to protect their computers from malware that affects IE7 but not newer browsers?

Usually, neti pot amoeba is

Anonymous's picture

Usually, neti pot amoeba is not a big problem if it is present in tap water and you drink it. The problem might occur when it somehow manages to get up into your nostrils. This quite rare infection typically occurs when people swim or dive in warm freshwater rivers and lakes.

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strippers's picture

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Plasma Active appears to be a

Flight Enthusiast's picture

Plasma Active appears to be a solution to an issue I've been faced with. I'm currently in flight school. I been looking for a way to use my flight simulator training software on a big screen. This is awesome!

looking forward to it.

Malcolm's picture

I have been looking at tablets for a while now, but I haven't been happy with the offerings from Apple or Android. I am thinking of getting an Archos 101 9G just to load Plasma Active. It looks beautiful and I am now using Activities on my Desktop after reading this.

I have to say, I've been reading a bunch of KDE haters on these Plasma Active sites and I have to say, Where's the Gnome offering?

Installing the GUI

adonai's picture

I have read many articles on various graphic user interfaces used on tablets, but my question is simple - how do you actually install on the tablet. I have tried running ubuntu from an image on an android tablet on top of the android, and vncviewer to access it, but I would like to install a complete arm os on the device. Any help would be appreciated, I keep on drawing at straws and losing.

Kind regards, adonai

there is more for changing

meanpt's picture

I own an hp touchsmart tm2 tblet laptop which has a nice touch screen and did test this thing. Despite the buggy behaviour of the underlining os for which the kde community is not accountable, I found the concept and everything unintuitive and ended with a panefull skin of my pointing finger due to repeatedly have to pull down the applications's screen. Closing our ecpanding windows were a pane too, and I had to use the stylus. Moreover, the very small default character and icon sise seemed to have been chosen by peopel suffering from hypermyopia. By the same time I tested the x86 android 4.x and everything went smoothly, regarding the interface.

Activies Works

Observer's picture

I, like many others, was confused about activities until one day I sat down and figured it out. Now, i can't do without it.

I have an activity for my weather with browser window showing local doppler radar and hurricane tracking site since this is Florida along with the 7 day forcast.

Another activity is for my flightgear flight sim where I have 3 sections of the screen.

One window has fgrun to start the sim and one has blender where I create objects for it and konqueror for copy files after creation and also use as web browser if i need FG related materials.

If i were a programmer, i would have my editor, terminal to compile, file manager etc. that i would need to code.

The good thing is that as you start and stop activities, you don't have to waste time for the applications to start, it is all there ready for you. And you can have a large amount of activites defined.

I can see how this is useful for tablets more so than desktops.

Plasma Active is...

Anonymous's picture

simply disgusting.

I really mean it. I don't like KDE but Plasma Active seriously is repelling in more then just one way. If I'd see someone I know using it... I don't know, it'll be like catching someone pick nose and eat what came out but worse.

Plasma Active

JSTC's picture

Your argument doesn't make sense. What exactly did you not like about it? Or are you someone that hates something you never really use or used?

Full circle

Anonymous's picture

Oh please, when were you born? In the days when people were bigger than their operating systems, they generally chose to organize their work and play in directories. Remember those, in good ole Unix or (gasp) MSDOS? Everything to do with an project (or Activity if you insist) went in one folder. Documents, to-do lists, data, pictures, code, everything in one place where you needed it. It was powerful and simple. As long an application (we called them "programs" then) was on your path, you could invoke it to work on the files right there in your working directory. The minute I saw Windows I knew it was WRONG. Suddenly the focus of activity was no longer the directory. Everything now revolved around the application. The application captures your attention and tries to keep you in its ambit, like shops and malls do. And because the application has no idea where other stuff relevant to the project is, it puts its files in default places, such as folders called "My Documents". I have been endlessly mystified how people could put up for so many years with such a naff idea. It makes no sense to put all data from one application in one folder, ignoring the actual contents of the data. It's like having a dinner party with all chairs in one room, all the tables in another, all the food in the basement, and all the drinks in the atic. Now, with much fanfare, KDE has discovered that it make a lot of sense to organize things around... Activities! Sorry if I'm not quite overwhelmed.

I would like to thank Justin Ryan for sharing his thoughts on th

Jellellsea's picture

When I first heard about it, I did not think about it as software discrimination and am glad I had the opportunity to consider that perspective. But like most of the feedback in the comments here, I disagree with Mr. Ryan.

KDE Plasma Active looks great

Anonymous's picture

I must say that KDE Plasma Active is the only tablet interface that I actually like visually and even more so functionally (at least from what I could see from some videos and descriptions of it). I really hope more tablets with it will be vaialable in future. It would especially be awesome if Linux friendly hardware companies like System76 and ZaReason could help make it a success.

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