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LCARS Themes in Development 55

mr100percent writes "I'm sure most Slashdot readers remember the computer UI from the Star Trek universe. Now, a number of developers are at work making LCARS themes, including one for Nokia tablets. There's even a Standards Board, with a flash LCARS demo." Several of us here in the office had the opportunity to test out the Nokia 770 at LinuxWorld San Francisco. The "cool factor" of a UI like this may even outweigh some of the downsides to the device since most of them were interface difficulties.
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LCARS Themes in Development

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  • First time i've seen that in a while...I must be lucky
  • ...thinking Star Trek was dead.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Can't wait to hear Jakob Nielsen or Tog put this abomination 6 feet under before anyone wastes time on it. A third of the screen is taken up by the menu. Another third consists of mostly non-working buttons with random numbers, while more random numbers serve to distract your attention. The font is so narrow that it's unreadable.

    "Functional" and "Futuristic" don't go necessarily hand in hand, and the latter always has to take a backseat to the former.
  • There exists an LCARS theme for Enlightenment DR16 at http://themes.freshmeat.net/projects/lcars/ [freshmeat.net]

    Some freshmeat searching reveals that there's themes for GTK+ too at http://themes.freshmeat.net/projects/lcars_/ [freshmeat.net]

    I used to use this theme years ago to show off, although the thick vertical bar at the left of the windows sort of wasted space on the 800x600 monitor.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    LCARS Sucks.

    Cardasian interface on the other hand... awesome
    dig those beeps!
    • by mikeron ( 837641 )
      Cardasian interface on the other hand... awesome
      Especially with the Terok Nor mood lighting.
  • Can be useful (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jackharrer ( 972403 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @04:50AM (#16556846)
    That system can be quite useful for specific purposes. Especially in hospitals, factories and silmilar places where nice GUI is not so important as clear and informative one. By using certain colors and patterns for displaying data you can easily notify user about information and changes. That can be very useful.
    Think that you have 5 warnings and one 1 critical message. On PC that would take 6 message boxes popping on screen. In LCARS you can blink some some of the buttons for warnings and pop-up message with critical information. It looks more uniformed that icon in tray blinking. Or MS Clippy :)

    Another good advantage is that system is designed to use touch screen. So nice big buttons and everything generally easy to read.
    Which is good in places you don't have space for fully blown PC + monitor + keyboard. Like in hospitals. It's much easier to clean and disinfect screen that keyboard. Not to mention that staff don't need to learn how to use computers, only some fancy GUI.

    The only thing that project needs is proper standardization - if not all users will be totally lost. And every company will use it's own model.
  • by master_p ( 608214 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @04:54AM (#16556856)
    What's the purpose of developing an LCARS specification? putting aside the fantasies of travelling in other planets on the USS Enterprise, I do not see playing role in the development of user interfaces. It looks cool, but it is confusing: it is not easy to see what is clickable and what is not, since the flat graphics give no indication of what can be clicked (I had to move the mouse on every element to see if it is clickable). The LCARS interface is nothing more than the old style text mode menu navigational system with flashier graphics. And overlapping windows where developed for a purpose: to allow the user to manage more information than what a computer screen can hold at one time.

    Don't get me wrong, I am a Star Trek fan and certainly LCARS is very exciting to use, especially while imagining being on a starship (!). It may also be useful for certain real-life situations like Star Trek conventions or even in tactical systems' consoles in military ships or airport terminals...but it does not seem useful as an altenative for desktop GUI.

    I also did not understand the term 'LCARS hardware'. They say in a link that they are developing such a thing. If it is not part of the fantasy, then what is it? it certainly can not be a massively parallel computer with AI like the one of the USS Enterprise, because such a beast is not possible yet.
    • The LCARS interface is nothing more than the old style text mode menu navigational system with flashier graphics.
      Did anyone ever stop to think that the old text menu navigation systems were in fact very usable indeed. Ncurses interfaces are typically extremely straightforward to use and uncluttered. You get what you want without all that mucking about with the mouse, and buttons, and menus, and submenus, and bips and bops and etc, etc.

      Text, is the new GUI.
      • Text, is the new GUI.
        And ncurses is its prophet!
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Did anyone ever stop to think that the old text menu navigation systems were in fact very usable indeed. Ncurses interfaces are typically extremely straightforward to use and uncluttered.
        Oh, of course, you're absolutely right!

        ncurses.... nfoiled ngain.
      • Text, is the new GUI.

        Text is the anti-GUI.

        GUI is great for novices discovering interfaces, but they're slow. I once wrote up a step-by-step of how to fire a photon torpedo via a standard GUI. "Tactical... Weapons ... 'Weapon type' checkboxes, scatter type radio buttons, Are You Sure? box, etc."

        Needless to say, it's too slow for pasting the Ferengi.

        There's not a problem training your tactical officers with slow-to-learn, fast-to-use computer interface.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sumdumass ( 711423 )

      What's the purpose of developing an LCARS specification? putting aside the fantasies of travelling in other planets on the USS Enterprise, I do not see playing role in the development of user interfaces.

      The purpose would likely be to address the concerns you latter mention and provide a uniform way of avoiding them.

      It looks cool, but it is confusing: it is not easy to see what is clickable and what is not, since the flat graphics give no indication of what can be clicked (I had to move the mouse on every

      • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )
        You're giving Star Trek slightly too much credit.

        CD's invented because of Star Trek? You do know we had a medium very similar to CD's before Star Trek right? If you replace "needle" with "laser", the rest of the technical implementation will follow. All it takes is a LaserDisc to show you the missing link.

        And obviously, cordless phones were invented due to Star Trek. Even though Star Trek was probably broadcast over radiowaves just like the ones we use for any other kind of wireless technology. All they did
        • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
          Well the flip Cell phone probably does owe a debt to the Star Trek for styling.
          While I am a Star Trek fan let us all get a grip. Star Trek was a reflection of the time. Star Trek existed because of the space race. As a tiny child I enjoyed watching the Apollo missions a lot more than than Star Trek.
          The space program is in large responsible for most of the current technology we have today. Star Trek really was the cultural/entertainment relfection of the space program. To put it bluntly the space program was
        • You're giving Star Trek slightly too much credit.

          CD's invented because of Star Trek? You do know we had a medium very similar to CD's before Star Trek right? If you replace "needle" with "laser", the rest of the technical implementation will follow. All it takes is a LaserDisc to show you the missing link.

          And obviously, cordless phones were invented due to Star Trek. Even though Star Trek was probably broadcast over radiowaves just like the ones we use for any other kind of wireless technology. All they di

          • Now, this isn't to say that some one else wouldn't have invented a cdrom or record player because of other developments.
            damn preview button.....

            That should read from a instead of or. like this..

            Now, this isn't to say that some one else wouldn't have invented a cdrom from a record player because of other developments.
        • But LCARS was "published" on TNG well before Microsoft had Windows! That's what makes it interesting. Most computers in 1988 were still text only MS Dos.. or Mac. The art directors came up with a way of using computers that's still slightly ahead of what we have now. Yes, it was just "play" but they used that method for nearly 15 years of sets and props.. it's had a lot of thought put into it, even if not by "programmers".
          • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )
            There were a lot of graphical user interfaces, even Windows-like, that were published well before Microsoft released Windows.
            X11 was released in 1987. The first X was released in 1984, so was classic Mac OS. The Amiga and Atari ST were released in 1985.
    • LCARS is a touch screen interface. It was in Star Trek and it is in these designs.

      Anything that looks like a button can be pressed.
    • LCARS interface isn't really optimised for web browsing. Where it might be really useful would be in some sort of Labview style interface. It's a control console that has a large range of information available quickly. It's specialised but should be useful for some people. It's optimised for touch screens and for mixing rich content with data that needs to be constantly monitored. It's actually quite intuititive and fast. I can see it being very good in embedded systems.
    • putting aside the fantasies of travelling in other planets on the USS Enterprise

      Some of us have problems with that frst hurdle.

      *teleports back
      ...you insensituve clod!
    • The hard to tell what's clickable could easily be avoided by dimming boxes after you make a choice (short of removing them altogether.)

      I've always felt, despite the gimmick factor, an LCARS styled interface showed promise of being a fast and efficient way to completing tasks and accessing information.

      You would have to move away from showing useless information like they do (hence all the non-clickable buttons).
  • Everyone knows it blows but Starfleet mandates its continued use.
  • I've already seen the "LCARS Standard Board" when it was featured as an Awful Link of the Day on Something Awful [somethingawful.com].
  • I loved the idea, when I saw it on maemo.org
    Just dont use your 770 in the sun with this theme, its basically unreadable and I did not have the time to fiddle around with the colors. Cool idea, bad implementation (I hope the developers will follow some additional ergonomy guidelines)
  • I have come into possession of a Fujitsu Stylistic 3500ST tablet for cheap (dead HD). I replaced the HD, and considering its design tradeoffs, it seems to be a decent machine for an LCARS home control interface. (500 Mhz Celeron, 256MB RAM, 12 GB HD, 1 USB, 2 IR, 1 COM, 1 PC Card - Other propietary ports).

    I've set it up with Win 2K w/ SP4 & all critical updates. It loads any software by way of a wireless card, sharing out a folder & the DVD-ROM on my laptop.

    I've been a trekker for a long time, and m
  • by miruku ( 642921 )
    I'd like to see an LCARS theme for this [jazzmutant.com].
    • Looks like an actual workable theme on there, why mess it up by changing the colors to all the same shades of yellow and blue?
  • by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @08:30AM (#16557900) Homepage Journal
    On no other theme could you just press whatever random buttons you like, and have it do exactly what you need it to do to get to the next part of the plot. So what if you pressed the upper left button to launch a browser last week? This week you'd rather press the middle right one to do it, and it'll damn well launch your browser!

    The only downside is the extremely dramatic expression of concentration you need to exhibit while using it.
    • by docrmc ( 551146 )
      Absolutely! LCARS should be backronymed "Links Change At Random Segments". Now, if they could combine it with a tap-to-midi, we can play "you tiny little lifeforms" in strange and public places. The dramatic concentration will freak out the passersby- bonus!
    • So what if you pressed the upper left button to launch a browser last week? This week you'd rather press the middle right one to do it, and it'll damn well launch your browser!

      I believe it's been explained that the panels are user-configurable. Each user can have their own layout of how they want stuff, and presumably can change it whenever they want to. I can do it today with KDE, so I see no reason LCARS can't do it too.
  • by jbarr ( 2233 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @09:19AM (#16558558) Homepage
    OK, I know that Star Trek was just a TV show (and movies) but the concepts shown were often meant to demonstrate "what could be" technologically. But why do LCARS developers insist on incorporating all the supeerfluous Star Trek branding stuff when they could better focus on designing a user interface that was truely useful and productive?

    After looking at the Flash demo, I think it's an interesting concept. I've seen the LCARS concept tried on the PalmOS, and on the PC, but I think they always miss the point. LCARS implementations are always filled with Star Trek logos and references. Why? And they're always filled with lots of meaningless, superfluous eye candy that simply serves no purpose other than to closely imitate a Star Trek screen. (For example, the upper right section with the flashing numbers.) Yes, it looks cool, but what's the point? Are LCARS designs supposed to make us roleplay Star Trek, or are they supposed to leverage concepts to provide a more productive and useful user interface?
  • LCARS is one of the most obnoxious, unusable interfaces I've ever seen. The colors are eyebleeding and the contrast is retina-melting. the amount of real estate taken up by useless widget space is tremendous, and actual data displayed is
    minimal.

    Sure, it looks cool - from a distance, glanced over by a TV camera. Where it was created, and meant to stay.

    I like star trek and all, fun shows - but christ. Let LCARS die, or at least continue its life where it belongs - in fiction. It's a terrible idea to find
    • Grumble, grumble. Next you'll be complaining about how the Enterprise-D has no bathrooms. [trektoday.com]
      • I think you missed the whole point of my post. The Enterprise doesn't need bathrooms, because there aren't a whole lot of scenes that you can film in a bathroom and still be eligible for prime-time TV, versus direct-to-video release in that funny room in the back of the movie shop. The Enterprise is a TV (and occasionally movie) set. It's designed to look cool, not to poop in. The actors go off-set for that.

        Comparatively, nobody is designing and building houses to look like the Enterprise on a day-to-day
  • Now I don't really have any problems with people attempting to work out new useable GUI variations (ever tryed to use windows/x.org with a touch screen?). The general premise if LCARS is great, but rather than trying to be true to the pictures thrown up on the TeeVee, why arn't they taking the basic idea and creating something functional out of it?

    All the ?random? colors and numbers are useless fluff, get rid of that junk and start with basic functions, like how submenus will come before the elbows, with p
  • Guys, it's a TV show. Why do we assume that LCARS is efficient at all? I don't quite understand why, in many an-episode, they have to press so many buttons anyway. It seems sometimes the whole thing isn't very context efficient. If Worf is at tactical and he's gotten check out something on scanners, why is he pressing _anything?_ Shouldn't that all just be there?

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