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Gnome Extension Offers a Shopping Lens We Can Live With 72

Posted by timothy
from the implementation-is-key dept.
sfcrazy writes "The year 2012 has not been very good for Canonical and Ubuntu. The end of the year saw harsh criticism of Ubuntu from bodies like EFF and FSF which accused the operating system of 'data leak,' 'privacy invasion' and adding 'spyware' features. Now, Gnome Shell is also getting online shopping lens. Alan Bell has created a Gnome Shell extension which allows a user to conduct online shopping search right from Gnome's Dash. You can install the extension from this link. Once installed you can start searching for online shopping by hitting 'super' key and then enter your search term. One of the greatest differences between the implementations is who is in control. Gnome's Shopping lens shows how it should have been done in the first place, as it puts the user in control, and not the company whose OS you are using. Bell has explained it very well on his blog."
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Gnome Extension Offers a Shopping Lens We Can Live With

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  • by MrEricSir (398214) on Monday December 31, 2012 @02:34AM (#42431055) Homepage

    Putting web content in a UI element I use to start programs is simply frustrating. To make matters worse, the content is very minimal and there's no way to do anything without launching a browser.

    So why is this problem being addressed in the first place? Is it just a way to make money from affiliate programs, or is there really a demand for this "feature"?

    • The article indicates that the extension's author has included his affiliate id in the application as the default, so I guess it's a way for him to make a buck. (You can apparently change the affiliate id to something else after installing the application, but how many people are actually going to do that?)

      • by Sqr(twg) (2126054)

        The possibility to change the affiliate id is the only reason for installing the lens (that I can think of), so yeah, I think most people who install the lens are going to do that. (If, for example, you want to give money to the Electronic Frontier Foundation every time you shop at amazon, then you enter their affiliate ID, as TFA explains.)

        If you don't care about the affiliate ID, then it's more efficient to have a shortcut to open amazon in a web browser instead of this lens.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 31, 2012 @02:47AM (#42431091)

      Is it just a way to make money from affiliate programs, or is there really a demand for this "feature"?

      There's absolutely no demand for this kind of extension. It's just a way for developers to make a buck.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by jellomizer (103300)

        How horrible!

        Imagine working 8-12 hours a day on average, grunting threw the boring parts, having some of what you thought was good ideas just be turned down by end users, working around system limitations. Then you have the audacity to want to make some money for it.

        People tend to have problems separating all their political issues. Open Source isn't Anti-Capitalism, even though some of its biggest voices are, that doesn't make Open Source Anti-Capitalism. However these people have a hard time separatin

    • by Dwedit (232252)

      I thought it was really neat when Linux Mint integrated the package manager into the launcher menu, you could either run an application you already have, or easily install a new one.
      But even though it's downloading the application from the internet, it's not exactly "web content", is it?

    • by symbolset (646467) *
      You should try Windows 8. With that you get integrated advertising without even having to subscribe to it. For some reason they've integrated it into the operating system.
      • This. There's quite horrible datamining and advertising system baked in Windows 8.
      • The advertising in Windows 8 just happens to be in a few "Bing" apps like Weather that are bundled in the Metro interface. That is very different from what Ubuntu is doing, which is sending Canonical the search keywords and showing Amazon products for every search you perform in the OS i.e it's more integrated into a core function of the OS, plus it sends personal information to third parties by default. Windows 8 does none of those things.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There were two main problems with the original implemntation of Amazon search in Ubuntu:

    1) By making the search seamless, your intended-for-internal-search-only search terms would get sent to Amazon and other places.

    This doesn't solve this problem at all, or at least not any better than removing the default extension and installing an Amazon-specific search extension. Installing this extension just requires you to add an 'a' search term to indicate that you *want* to search Amazon. Yes, that's "opt-in," b

    • by greg1104 (461138) <gsmith@gregsmith.com> on Monday December 31, 2012 @03:18AM (#42431167) Homepage

      If you want Amazon search to be "seemless" (a word which I wouldn't think even belongs for a tack on UI element like this), you just remove the "a" prefix. There could be a better UI to this concept; the important advance is that there's a UI to limit it at all, while still being useful.

      If you don't like the intermediary, it's stated to be "about 5 lines of code" to build your own. The only interesting part is that it needs an Amazon services ID to unlock the search API of their site. If you have your own Amazon services capable account instead, you can host it. If you don't, this guy is offering the connector to make things easier for you, specifically disclaimed with how he'll benefit from that.

      A bit evil out of the box, accurately described as being so, and with easy workarounds to the biggest concerns. That solves this problem as well as I'd like to be. As for what we know about the service hosting so far, it's the personal site of someone who works at a Canonical partner [ubuntu.com]. It looks to me like he's trying to get someone else to pick up the intermediary role by providing an example.

      • by dominux (731134) on Monday December 31, 2012 @04:48AM (#42431377) Homepage

        Hi, I am Alan and I wrote it. I am not trying to get anyone else to pick up the intermediary role, I kind of like the idea of the floods of money pouring into my Amazon account, however I wanted to point out that other people have got the software freedom to fork the front end and run their own back end and do that. For the record, the back end uses the Amazon API PHP library and has boilerplate code to set it up, including the super sekrit API keys that I can't include in an open source client then after the boilerplate there are basically two lines of active code:
                $response = $amazonEcs->category($type)->responseGroup('Medium')->search($searchquery);
                echo json_encode($response->Items);
        so it just spits out the "Items" array from the JSON it gets from Amazon as JSON.
        It isn't a personal site as such, it is one of our company servers running at Hetzner in Germany. I am a joint owner of the company so you could say it is mine :)

        • by gbjbaanb (229885)

          For the record, the back end uses the Amazon API PHP library and has boilerplate code to set it up, including the super sekrit API keys that I can't include in an open source client

          hmm, but would it have been better to include a placeholder config where the user puts their own super secret Amazon keys in the front end and runs it entirely for themselves?

          • by dominux (731134)

            That would mean everyone who wants to use it would have to register as an Amazon API developer themselves - and the registration process is a bit more involved than setting up an Amazon shopping account or even an affiliate account. You have to declare what you are developing and give them a URL to your site and other things. I could have a preference setting where people put their API codes which would then get passed to the web service and then on to Amazon, however that doesn't actually deliver any benef

          • by greg1104 (461138)

            Getting an Amazon AWS key requires providing a credit card and accepting some unknown future charges for what your programs do. It's not a risk I would advise anyone to do just to make shopping easier. The key I use is owned by a LLC for example, and I was uncomfortable personally signing that agreement. Accordingly, there is some value to a software developer taking on the risk there, which you get to eat along with the expectation of profit. If the code was distributed without the matching server-side

    • by dominux (731134)

      ah, fair point. I guess I was expecting people to be able to connect the dots a bit better. I will add the relevant info to the root page of the web service. It was an afterthought putting anything there other than a 404 error to be honest. Libertus Solutions is my company and if you take the products bit off the front of the URL you get to the contact details and so on. I just flung up the web service to make the client work. The back end is trivial, it reads the query string, uses boilerplate code to set

    • by dominux (731134)

      better now? I don't know what else you would like to see in a privacy statement but suggestions are welcome.

  • GNOME Shell (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 31, 2012 @02:46AM (#42431087)

    Gnome Shell's shopping lens can be intuitively accessed by anyone! Just press your windows key three times quickly and then Ctrl-S, then shuffle through the windows until you find the lens interface! Click it and a whizzy animation will move the input box to a random monitor. Enter your first letter! A whizzy animation will confirm your letter's input and close the window. Repeat the process for the second letter of your search term until it is complete! Congratulations, you just netted yourself a bargain!

  • by Osgeld (1900440) on Monday December 31, 2012 @03:12AM (#42431153)

    where opening a browser to shop the entire world from our toilet is just too much?

  • Slahvertisment? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by udippel (562132) on Monday December 31, 2012 @03:47AM (#42431231)

    The world (and dog) seem to agree that Mark Shuttleworth screwed it up with his money-spinning exercise of searching Amazon instead of your own machine, when making an innocuous search.
    Many of us started to hate Unity for that 'feature'.
    And now someone comes along and offers an extension to the likewise hated Gnome3 that compounds its ugliness.

    How is that newsworthy?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      How is that newsworthy?

      Err,
      because it shows that this 'dickish' money-spinning behaviour on the part of Linux/Unix programmers which some of us thought only to be a local infection in one OS distribution, now has the potential to spread to many OS distributions (depending on sheeple & greed factors) via a desktop 'trojan'?

    • by dominux (731134)

      dunno if I should be feeding this comment, but here goes.
      Unity is based on Gnome 3. Gnome Shell is based on Gnome 3. They are both shells for Gnome 3, but Unity is not Gnome Shell.
      Gnome Shell was pretty grim once, (as was Unity) it is now really really good, and Unity is OK. Try it. I am guessing you haven't used Unity much either.
      You can email Mark if you want to, or catch him on IRC he is quite responsive.

      • by udippel (562132)

        Assumptions ... assumptions ... ... wrong assumptions. I am using Unity on a daily basis. First.
        I have tried Gnome3, again, for an hour or so, yesterday. Second.
        What was your line of reasoning again?

  • I sense.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TechyImmigrant (175943) on Monday December 31, 2012 @03:59AM (#42431263) Journal

    I sense a problem that didn't need solving.

    Any screen space taken up by this feature is an affront to every coder who's ever had to maximize their window to fit more code in the editor's view.

    • by dominux (731134)

      This is a reasonable point of view, I just figured that someone was going to do it so it might as well be me - and if it was going to be done I might as well do it as inoffensively as possible!

      • by arth1 (260657)

        This is a reasonable point of view, I just figured that someone was going to do it so it might as well be me - and if it was going to be done I might as well do it as inoffensively as possible!

        What's offending to me is vendor tie-ins in general, and Amaxzon in particular. Some of us still boycott Amazon because of the 1-click patent and other actions limiting the freedom of programmers and admins.

        Any time you tie to a particular vendor, you're doing it wrong. Whether it's making a desktop Facebook, Twitter or Skype app, or a search that goes through Amazon (or any other particular vendor).
        Be open. Be generic. Don't allow for a single line of code to be specific to a specific vendor.
        It will co

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by dominux (731134)

          If there was an open vendor neutral API to plug into I would do that. I don't have the resources that google shopping have got to screen scrape loads of stores. I am certainly up for adding more stores, but they have to expose a search API and preferably an affiliate scheme (they don't have to do that, but realistically I am going to prioritise those that do). The code is all GPL v2 so feel free to enhance it to work with multiple APIs and search back ends. I don't *want* to limit it to one vendor.

          • by arth1 (260657)

            If there was an open vendor neutral API to plug into I would do that.

            Um, there are several. They work against a multitude of shopping systems. They won't give you Amazon searches, because Amazon does not support them - and (and this is the important point) Amazon doesn't have an incentive to adhere to any open API as long as devs are willing to dance to their pipe.
            In other words, well-meaning as your effort is, you make it worse for all of us, supporting vendor tie-ins instead of open standards.

            • by dominux (731134)

              oh, interesting. I wasn't aware of any, but I didn't look massively hard (all those stores with an API that I am aware of were different to each other). Having now looked I am no closer to finding such an animal. Got a link?

    • by symbolset (646467) *
      Meh. I'm less concerned about what this is than where it leads: "Ow my balls!"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 31, 2012 @04:24AM (#42431325)

    Configurable? Gnome putting user in control? That's not their spirit. Well, probably they will improve it removing that feature in subsequent releases

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dominux (731134)

      This is a third party extension that they are hosting on their site for third party extensions. Extensions are how you extend and configure Gnome Shell.

  • What Ubuntu did was obviously going to annoy people and there was no need for it either.

    Browsers have supported mycroft plugins for years - those things that power the search box in Firefox / Opera etc. It should not be hard to implement them behind a search lens (using an HTML scraper for sites which don't return XML if necessary) and present the results in a uniform way. Or introduce a plugin format v2 which returns richer results and metadata and encourage prominent sites like Wikipedia to support it.

  • Lens? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    From what I can see in the screenshots this is just a search function for a specific search domain. Just a search box and search results, looks pretty standard to me. Why do we need a new (or actually reuse an existing) term for this? A 'shopping search engine' is actually clearer than 'shopping lens'. Are we going to call Google, Bing etc. 'web lenses' now? Or does it have to be integrated in the desktop background to be called a 'lens'? Why would that matter?

    I'm not opposed to jargon if it actually makes

    • by dominux (731134)

      The Gnome Shell terminology is that this is a search provider. I use the lens terminology because that is the Ubuntu Unity name for the same thing and was the inspiration for it. Also I am quite narcissistic and figured it would get me some attention.

  • by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Monday December 31, 2012 @06:07AM (#42431591) Homepage

    Very little of what I do with my PC is about shopping. If I want to do shopping I take some definite action, I don't want the default assumption that I am using my machine because I may want to buy something. I know that we are supposed to live in a consumer society, but this is stupid.

    • by dominux (731134)

      yes, me too. There are quite a lot of more imaginative (and probably better written) extensions on https://extensions.gnome.org/ [gnome.org] I would encourage you to have a browse and see what else you can do with your computer. Then buy stuff. This volcano won't hollow itself out you know - I need the commissions.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      are you some kind of commie?

  • When I want to shop I fire up my browser if it isn't already running.
    No need for integration into the desktop without a clear explanation of the added features.
    I am NOT a shop-a-holic and I do understand we need to shop less to make the future sustainable.
  • Gnome doesn't want to be left behind Unity in suckiness.

"Never give in. Never give in. Never. Never. Never." -- Winston Churchill

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