Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Using Savi

Imagine a block the size of a PC card. The block would contain the operating system, all of the applications or enhancements and all of the documents, music, images and other data files. It would also contain a set of smart batteries. Whatever other device the block was connected to would contain the CPU, display, input devices, modem, networking devices, optical drives etc. It would also have firmware to match the operating system to its display type and input method.
Bob uses the Savi system. In the morning he plugs his block into the family desktop system which switches it on. The desktop charges the block's smart batteries while he checks his email and updates his pages. He pulls the block from the desktop, turning the desktop off and inserts it into his combination phone and PDA. The display automatically adapts to the PDA screen size and pen input. Once in his car he slots the PDA into its cradle and the car tops up the battery. The car stereo now adds the music in the block to its playlist. A call comes in and its routed through the stereo as well.
At work Bob plugs the block into his wifi tablet. When Bob checked his mail at home the desktop dialled up, in the car the cellular phone dialled up, now at work the tablet fetches mail from the company server. The block knows where it is by what its plugged into, Bob doesn't have to do anything. Meanwhile back at home Bob's son plugs his block into the desktop. Nothing that Bob did remains on the desktop so there's no way his son can damage Bob's operating system or data.
A phone rings nearby with Bob's personal ring tone; its his boss calling via wifi and bluetooth through the tablet to the phone. In Bob's database panel his boss's name flashes as Bob picks up the phone. By tapping on the name, the timeline shows recent dealings with the boss and the document panel shows recent meeting notes as well as a fresh note for this conversation. During the discussion the boss sends Bob a future meeting button that flashes in his timeline. It doesn't clash with any other appointments so Bob taps it to confirm the meeting. Later that day the boss thinks of some other things to discuss at the meeting so he sends the note to Bob's meeting button. The button flashes slowly to prompt Bob that its been modified.
A reminder sounds in Bob's timeline to organize his vacation; he's too busy right now so he drags the reminder further town the timeline, effectively snoozing it. Later, when it sounds again he decides to delegate by dropping the reminder on his assistant, making the task hers.
This morning the video recorder at home spoke to the desktop and added the most recently recorded shows to Bob's timeline. He tags the shows to watch tonight and selects some more for recording from the schedule, including a training video that shows up in the corporate tab that now appears in his database panel; dragging the video from the corporate tab to the timeline of tonight downloads the video to the block because Bob won't be at work to watch it.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Web Spaces

Every Savi user would have their own web space. They would drop text and items on their local version to have the remote version updated automatically. Navigation and other dynamic elements would be updated automatically at the same time. Most of the visual design elements shown on the web page will have been fetched, not from the remote site, but from the local effects library within the Savi operating system even when browsing other Savi user's websites.
If a page contained a piece of data that was often updated, like a "What's New" list or the latest stock price, that piece of data could be dragged as a package to any of your own pages. Whenever you are online it will be updated with the latest version of the data.
For sites with a lot of pages of text, read the first page while the rest of the site is being downloaded as a zip
Instead of sending files attached to messages, users would be encouraged to send a button linked to the remote file and the recipient could then have the option to open or ignore the remote file.
The management of your own site would be totally seamless. You would look at your site in exactly the same way you would browse anyone else's, but you would be able to directly edit and add to yours. Any document that you create locally would use basically the same web-biased technology, so at any future time you could choose to "Publish" and it would be added to your website.
From webpage to timeline
A webpage could mention an upcoming date and show it as a distinctive looking button. Dropping that button on the timeline would schedule a new event with all of the details filled in. The timeline can be told to fetch other events from the same publisher. The view of the timeline can be refined to show only those events. Some examples:
· Tide charts
· TV schedules
· Bus and train times
· Club meetings
Events could be linked back to the publisher for ordering tickets.

Friday, August 20, 2004

The Savi interface

The Savi interface is dominated by four panels that are always present. These are, clockwise from top right:
The document panel
This is the primary panel and it normally dominates the screen real estate. Images, articles, messages and movies etc. are always displayed here.
The properties panel
If any item is clickable then the resulting information or options will be displayed here.
The timeline panel
Every action taken by the user is time stamped and recorded on the timeline. The timeline is the primary means of refering to things done or things looked at. The timeline also looks forwards at meetings and reminders.
The database panel
Every item can be categorized and listed in the database panel. Broad categories could include contacts, collections, document types etc.
An in depth look at each panel:
The document panel
At its top is a horizontal bar displaying the document date, the type, the author and the title. If the panel was displaying a web page then the author would be the website and the title would be the title normally seen in a browser. Click and hold on one of the fields to show a list of recents followed by an alphabetical list for jumping to other documents. Click and release a field to change its value. In the case of a web page, changing its title causes the page to be permanently saved.
While you are looking at the web page an email message arrives from Peter. Peter's name flashes in the database panel. At the same time "Message from Peter" appears in the timeline. Clicking Peter's name causes the message to display in the document panel at the foot of the continuous roll. As well as text, the message contains a link and an image. The message can be scrolled while his signature remains fixed in a separate sub panel at the bottom.
The link appears as a button, hiding the address; it can be clicked to open the link, or dragged to the database or timeline. When held over the database, various logical categories and destinations will cascade and when held over the timeline, a view of the near future will expand for it to be dropped for scheduling. The button could be dropped on a name or group, initiating a message that contains the button. It could be dropped on the local version of your website which will update the online version.
If the image where dropped on your website you would have the option of using that image, or linking to Peter's original. If you chose to then "focus" on the message from Peter then the database would show all items linked to him, the timeline would show all dealings with him and the properties would show all of his details. If the Savi where connected while you were looking at Peter's details: Clicking his address would show a map and his location with the option of directions from here to there. Clicking a phone number would call him and record it in the timeline; a fresh note page would appear in the document panel. The properties panel would also contain a checklist of things to mention to Peter. His instant messaging address would show if he was currently online. Naturally, if you clicked it a chat would initiate in the document panel

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Alternative OS

As it's the twentieth anniversary of the Mac I've found myself over the last few days reading articles about the original development of the Mac, Star, and Lisa; how they came up with and honed the various interface elements. It's all stuff that we're now familiar with and consider ubiquitous, such as scroll bars, windows, icons etc. The current state of the interface art seems to work quite well, but I do think there are alternatives -- major alternatives really, when it comes to the very idea of launching applications to perform tasks.
Years ago I was one of the first to get my hands on an Apple Newton, and I've had every hardware version since then. The Newton was a computer -- in that you could download software into it, and it was very flexible in how you used it -- but because it was a handheld they took the opportunity to start again from scratch with regard to the interface and what metaphors it would use.
Instead of using a desktop as the back bone of the OS, they chose a notepad, or rather, an endless roll of note paper.
You didn't create new notes, or save them or name them. You simply drew a line across the screen and wrote something new below it. The OS then turned the line into a separator and date stamped it, using the first few words of the note as a title to be used when viewed in the overview mode. Third party developers wrote enhancements for the OS that made the notepad incredibly powerful, and easy to navigate.
When going back to an earlier note, the first thought wasn't "what did I name it," or, "where did I file it", but rather, "when did I write it?" This reference to a timeline seemed such an obvious and natural method of searching that I began thinking about how it could be used in a fullsized setting -- for everything. Not just notes created or edited, but having every activity recorded on the timeline. If the timeline projected into the future as well it could also serve as a scheduler.
I imagine something vertical that could be zoomed or filtered to reduce clutter. With the resolutions available on today's screens it could be a permanent fixture of the OS. If the timeline was a column that was positioned at the lower-left of the screen then above it could be the data column. The first use for the data column would be as a list of contacts. Other categories could include websites, inventories and collections, any sort of quick reference lists. That leaves the rest of the screen which would be primarily made up of the content screen.
The lower portion of the content screen could double as a context, or properties screen. If an active item is clicked but not activated then relevant information would appear in this lower right screen.