Go forward in time to October 2012.
Scott Reeves, Cosimo Cecchi, Jasper St. Pierre, Fabiana Simões, Dave Richards, Jan Holesovsky, Anna Zacchi, and yours truly are in the User Observation Hackfest in Orlando!
Yesterday we had a very nice day-trip to the City of Largo, about 1.5 hours away from Orlando, where Dave manages the software on the city government's computers. For many years they have had a substantial deployment of Gnome-based thin clients with very interesting customizations. This is an HP thin client; just a low-power box that runs an X server, and connects to a display manager through XDMCP:
The city government saves about USD 10,000 each year on electricity alone by using these little thin clients instead of full-blown desktop computers. They can install an application once on the central servers, and then have it available on all thin clients without any extra work. There is no need for a software provisioning system; everything is managed just once in a single central location. They can support about 800 users with a very small IT team, under 20 people.
Dave Richards gave us a very interesting presentation on the customizations he has done to Gnome for the city government's users. This is an excellent starting point for things that should be in the stock Gnome environment: file previews with commands that are commonly useful (shrink image to a size suitable for email; print a document directly without opening an application...), non-distinction between open applications and open windows (already in Gnome Shell), integration with document management systems (something for Alfresco and Gnome Documents). Dave mentioned things that he has had to work around, like people who click and click and click and click on application icons because they think that will make them launch faster — we need to debounce launchers and buttons everywhere. They have a very cool system for monitoring crashes and reporting problems. It's all logged with backtraces. There are hundreds of application crashes a day (esp. evolution-data-server); we could definitely use this information to debug reproducible bugs!
We had lunch under a tree by a beautiful lake, with storks, turtles, ducks and ducklings. This is actually in a government office, city hall. I wish my town's were just as nice! Thanks to the City of Largo for sponsoring pizza, cookies, and beverages for everyone.
In the afternoon we went around the city hall offices so that we could interview people in their daily work. There are users with various degrees of computing experience. They do bread-and-butter work: manage payroll for city employees, produce plans and documents for community development, handle accounts payable for city services, etc. They use their computers simply as tools, as a means to an end, and they do not care much for technicalities. They demand a basic level of customization — they love changing the desktop wallpaper, themes, and fonts, but they expect things to just work without tinkering.
We have videos and notes from these interviews, which we will be digesting shortly.
Finally we went to the beach in Largo. Here, the logos for LibreOffice, Gnome, openSUSE, and Fedora, lovingly toe-carved in the fine white sand.
Back to the hotel for an openSUSE Summit dinner, and good beer. The weather here is just perfect, warm and humid.
Go backward in time to August 2012.Federico Mena-Quintero <email@example.com> Sat 2012/Sep/22 09:43:16 CDT