Category Archives: Random

Wi-fi Gesture Controller ‘WiSee’ Built on Ubuntu, Pimped on the BBC


WiSee & Ubuntu Grace BBC News Front Page

It’s always interesting to see Ubuntu grace the pages of the  popular press – even when it’s not referenced directly.

An article on the BBC News website today, June 5th, is one such occurrence.

The piece concerns gesture-controlled tech able to read movements based on disruptions to Wi-Fi signals. The main post image of the piece is a screenshot of the tech being run on Ubuntu. That grab is also currently showing up on the BBC News front page, too.

“Joey!”, some of you may be thinking, “Surely the news is that the WiSee team are using Ubuntu, and not that it’s on the BBC website!”

That’s certainly true. It is great to see Ubuntu being used in the building of tomorrow’s technology. But hey – a guy needs an angle!


In the following video put together by the research team you can see Ubuntu in use several times. The application itself looks as though it’s written in Java.

Now before anyone gets too excited it’s worth pointing out that the tech the team used to “read” gestures via WiFi signals isn’t your standard discount Belkin router. In fact, the BBC report that the researcher’s kit costs ‘about 10 times the price of Microsoft’s Kinect.’

So don’t expect Ubuntu Wave to arrive anytime soon! 😉

For more information on the WiSee, the team behind it and its potential uses head over to the BBC News article or the University of Washington webpage.

Wisee BBC News Article

WiSee Post on Website

Ubuntu Button Tweaked to Meet ‘Cultural & Aesthetic’ Expectations

The Ubuntu button in 13.04 has received a last minute change: the background swirl now spins in a clockwise direction.

Trivial, right? In fact, if had it arrived sooner, then our recent post on ’7 subtle changes in Unity 7 you probably won’t notice…‘ would have been 8!


Left: Old direction; Right: New Direction

Why The Change?

But why has the background direction been altered? And why now?

We don’t need to go too far back in history to answer the latter question, just to yesterday when a bug report was filed by Matthieu James, Ubuntu’s icon maker.

In the issue he cites a mail forwarded to him by Mark Shuttleworth in which a user argues that the button background swirl should spin clockwise, as there are cultural and historical dispositions favouring this procession.

Still following? Good.

Now, there is certainly no denying that, for most cultures, the clockwise/right-leaning movement is seen as being ‘good’, ‘positive’, and, in some cases, ‘holy’.

Whether it makes sense to us today is moot; the fact is that the vast majority of us are socialised to believe that clockwise = moving forward and moving forward = good. It sits within in us at a subconscious level, handed down to us from ancient times when the movement of the sun in the sky ( ‘east’ to ‘west’) was revered as important, life-giving and divine.

‘Sunwise’ became shorthand for ‘the right way’. Shorthand that remained core through subsequent cultures and civilisations; a crutch that influenced architecture, mathematics, science, mechanics.

The procession of clockwise over anti-clockwise is a movement we’re just darn well used to. Even some of our words, like ‘sinister’ are hold overs from this, being derived from the latin for anti-clockwise ‘sinistro‘!

‘iron age thinking’

Back to the present. The BFB icon in 13.04 has now been changed (albeit committed to Unity but not yet landed) to conform to this cultural/historical expectation.

This hasn’t pleased everyone, especially Steve Riley who writes:

“The notion that left = bad and right = good is steeped in ancient (and wrong) beliefs about what nature prefers. It’s the 21st century now. Do people really make technology decisions based on iron age fairy tales?”

He wasn’t alone in feeling a little peeved. The Ubuntu Documentation team, who have already taken screenshots of Ubuntu 13.04, also felt a bit put out. And Kevin Godby raised the point of whether this change means other anti-clockwise-leaning icons will also be hanged, like the new Software Updater icon.

Ultimately it’s a change that is both trivial and, to those who don’t care about such inferences, an irrelevant one at that.

But for designers, who speak a language that’s heavily based on symbolism, the change of direction will be seen a touch of finesse aimed at reassuring the subconscious eye with a familiar shapes, patterns and flows.

And that, cultural reasonings aside, is the most important thing: making sure it looks good. 

Ubuntu Button Tweaked to Meet ‘Cultural & Aesthetic’ Expectations OMG! Ubuntu! – Everything Ubuntu. Daily.

Think You Saw Unity In Last Night’s Doctor Who?

Hands up if you watched the return of Doctor Who yesterday, in the tech-laden episode ‘The Bells of St. John’?

That’s a lot of hands.

Now put your hands up if you think you spotted Ubuntu’s Unity desktop being used by Miss Kislet‘s shady soul-snatching organisation?

Fewer hands. But I can see why you’d think that…


Kislet’s Malevolent  OS Looks a Bit Like Unity… (image credit: BBC/Will)

Left-hand launcher, big circle at the top; items going half-way down – all Unity tropes. And, on the screen further back to the center (in the image above) we can see what looks like Ubuntu’s 4-space Workspace Switcher.

But is is actually Unity?

Between the few fleeting glimpse of the screens as a whole screen, which are often softly out of focus, there are one or two close-ups that shows that this isn’t – sadly – Unity being used:


Damn You Miss Kislet, Foiled Again

But the Doctor Who production team aren’t averse to using Ubuntu to power displays during filming. Ubuntu 8.04 cropped up on-screen during ‘The End of Time’, and Ubuntu was ised in the adult spin-off Torchwood.

Ubuntu Powered Promo Booth? You Bet [Ubuntu In The Wild]

Every day we walk past and interact with machines that run Linux, without ever noticing. 

But every now and then these machines go wrong, and their underlying OS is exposed for all to see.

Like, for example, this promotional pod used in a British betting shop, snapped by Lee Jarratt:


What’s semi-fascinating about this spot (to me, at least!) is that it’s not simply a case of some stock Ubuntu install powering it. No, someone has changed the wallpaper, trimmed down the launcher items, and swapped the theme from the default Ambiance to the lighter Radiance.

Someone is using Ubuntu for a purpose, whilst also using Ubuntu themselves. That’s pretty neat.