From App-Centric to Data-Centric

May 25th, 2005

Here’s the big picture overview of my desktop PC usage: I deal with data and not applications. Applications are just tools to help me obtain, explore and organize data. And hence, applications should be as unobtrusive as possible. Sadly, most of the apps today aren’t designed with this data first attitude in mind.

This isn’t a long winded post arguing the merits or demerits of this attitude. This is just a note on how I got my desktop closer to the ideal data first desktop.

My home PC use revolves around three things (apart from net surfing): music, pictures and videos. That’s data in three different formats and representing three different usage patterns. Music listening is usually a passive thing - it plays in the background while I do other things. Pictures involve displaying them, sorting, editing, etc. Videos - just watching.

On my current desktop, the GNOME 2.10 Ubuntu desktop, Rhythmbox serves the role of playing music admirably well. I can queue songs by album or artist and I can bring up any song I want in practically no time. No problems here.

When it comes to pictures, Eye of GNOME, the default graphics file handler leaves a lot to be desired. When I open a picture file in Nautilus, I just want to see the picture. And see it now! I don’t want a slow-loading, huge toolbar laden app open up just to see a picture!

Enter QIV - Quick Image Viewer. It’s incredibly fast and completely unobtrusive. I’ve associated my graphics files to open with QIV and now when I open a picture, it displays damn near instantly. Best of all, I see just the picture in a simple window - no freaking toolbar or menubar! Hit ‘Esc’ or ‘q’ and back to Nautilus. Simple, fast, elegant. And my pictures stay as pictures - they don’t get transported into the womb of a menubar and toolbar laden app.

Now to videos and movies. Nautilus renders very nice thumbnails of video files; very thoughtfully, the thumbnails are created from some duration into the video and not just the first frame - so you see a scene from the video and not a black/white thumbnail. When I launch a video file, Totem comes up after the customary delay after which, I find my video surrounded by a menubar and a seekbar and a status bar and what not. Hitting the ‘H’ key hides all that clutter and now I can enjoy just the video. Can I launch Totem in this no-frills state? I haven’t figured out how to do that. And even if I could do it, the time delay between opening a file and Totem starting playback brings a disconnect in my experience.

Enter MPlayer, the fastest video playback solution on Linux since forever! No kidding: on this machine, Eye of GNOME, a picture viewer, takes more time to load than MPlayer!

Now thanks to MPlayer, I can enjoy instant video playback in a manner that puts the content first.

Here are some screenshots to show what I am talking about.

image viewers' comparison

video viewers' comparison

One comment to “From App-Centric to Data-Centric”

  1. Bala said:

    I am surprised you are using Gnome. When did you switch? I still haven’t got around installing Ubuntu. Should try it out sometime.

    Regarding image viewer, electric eyes was pretty fast. Sadly, the development stopped some time back.