Thoughts and notes for Mark Shuttleworth and/or Canonical …
Ubuntu can lead the way for write-once-run-anywhere operating systems by adding provisions for more mice and properly calling multi-touch routines from the mouse routines. Read on to consider some of the reasons why.
Why is Windows 8 so roundly reviled by so many users of desktop computers?
Because Win 8 left them out, that's why!
Think about it: Most of the bells, whistles and golly-wow stuff is intended for use with touch screens, slower and battery-limited processor and graphics power, small screen real estate and so on. Sure, we desktop users have hugely larger budgets for electrical, processor and graphics power, as well as memory and screen size – but we don't have touch screens, and many of the things that touch screens can brings us, mice and keyboards just can't.
Or can they – perhaps with a little help?
I'm thinking like this: Much of what touch screens do is exactly the same as what mice do – they capture gestures made by human hands. That means that, as long as you're capturing only one point of control, you can do exactly the same things with mice and touch screens. You may have to compensate for different viewing options and for different sized areas of control (hot spots), but there's no real difference for the computer. No, the difference comes in when you need multiple control points … like you do for all the multi-touch stuff. You know, the pinching to shrink and the spreading to grow, and like that. Anything of that sort, and you bang your head against the limitations of the traditional mouse/keyboard setup, because the mouse gives you the one and only point of control that you have.
Traditional software companies are disinclined to solve this problem, since they are being encouraged by the traditional hardware guys to drive the sales of new hardware by giving us software that older hardware can't run. If we want the problem solved, we'll need to do it ourselves.
Guess what? We can do it, and for little or no money per computer!
You see, in order to deal ourselves into the new bells and whistles, we need mostly (or only) to give ourselves more than one point of control – and for the desktop computer, this additional point of control is easily provided by a second mouse!
A second mouse will provide that much more gesture capture power, including provision for clicks and drags, and anything one could do with two fingers on the same hand one can do with two mice – so long as the mice were properly configured. In order for this method to work well, one mouse would have to become the left mouse, with its right button configured as its primary button (the one usually used for clicking and dragging purposes. I have seen Xfce attempt to address this shortcoming, but the proper configuration doesn't last; on the next reboot, all is forgotten, and the left mouse falls back into right-hand mode again, never to return. The fact that it works at all proves that the idea can work, though, and that means that Linux can do something that Linux has seldom – or never – done before: Lead the way for all the other platforms.
Gentle People: I give you … Multi-Mouse!
Put together support for two or more mice, making each one independently and persistently configurable. Give each mouse a unique and easily identifiable cursor. Two buttons pressed down should alert the system to be ready to do pinch/spread/multi-touch things. Otherwise, treat the mice like mice.
I figure that this should be resource friendly from the standpoint that most, if not all, of the routines used to make Multi-Mouse happen should already exist. Mice have been standard computer equipment for decades, and multi-touch routines have been written for years, so it should be mostly a matter of getting the mouse routines to call and pass data to the multi-touch routines when it's needed. And instead of shelling out big bucks for touch screens or touch mice or any other pricey hardware, the only hardware upgrade needed is a mouse, some of which I've seen for sale for three dollars. The price of admission is dirt cheap!
Along with provisions for staples like icons you can resize and other things to take advantage of desktop computer hardware when it's available, Multi-Mouse can be an enormous draw for desktop users. Imagine Ubuntu Unity being hailed, rather than panned! Could such capability be baked into Ubuntu for Android? If so, could it not be better than taking one's hands off the desktop to manipulate a touch screen?
While some desktop users just will not like the experiences that interfaces like Unity and Windows 8 provide, many others just need a way to tap into the new features in ways relevant to their systems. The old schoolers can work with MATE or Cinnamon and get their way, while the addition of a second mouse and a few lines of accommodating code can throw open the doors to multi-touch power for more daring souls. How hard would it be?