New Concerto 2 Beta Release – 0.4.0 FoxtrotFlamingo!

It’s been two weeks since our previous Concerto 2 beta release and we find ourselves at “0.4.0.FoxtrotFlamingo”. This release is jam-packed with UI enhancements and bug fixes. To get started, you can find our installation to get started in our Github wiki.

Most notable among the UI changes is a revamped dashboard. Previously, Concerto 2 had a bit of an identity crisis going on with an admin “dashboard” and a front page for logged-in users that acted a little as a dashboard of its own. We’ve rectified this by creating a consistent dashboard that is visible when a user logs into Concerto 2. The dashboard is broken up into a number of portlets and acts similarly to what you might expect: it’s a front door to everything you can do with the Concerto Panel. The dashboard tailors itself to your user account. If you have submissions to moderate, you will see a message right on your dashboard. If you belong to one or more groups or control screens, those will appear on the dashboard. An Activity Log of the latest happenings in your Concerto world appears along the right side of the dashboard. And future portlets will be coming!

A screenshot of the new dashboard in the Concerto 2 0.4.0.FoxtrotFlamingo beta release.

A screenshot of the new dashboard in the Concerto 2 0.4.0.FoxtrotFlamingo beta release.

The new dashboard is accessible via the root url of your Concerto 2 instance when you are logged in as a user, and it can be reached by clicking the big blue Concerto logo button in the top left of the page.

In addition, the administrator views have been reorganized into three main areas: Settings, Plugins, and Users. The Settings are grouped into several tabs based on common functional areas. We hope this organization will serve us well as we flesh out the final components of plugin management.

We’re really interested in your feedback about these changes to the Concerto 2 UI. Please tell us what you think in our discussion group and post to our issue tracker if you discover a bug or want to suggest a change.

You can find a full list of changes for this release here. Expect another exciting beta release in a couple weeks!

New Concerto 2 Alpha Release: Frontend, Subscriptions, and More!

We’re excited to announce a new build of the Concerto 2 Alpha Release. Just in time for Christmas, this new build brings a working version of the v2 frontend used to display screen content, a new interface for managing screen subscriptions, a retooled administrator dashboard, and lots of other great additions!

View the 0.0.2.alphamoose tag on Github

Please note: this is an early software preview and a lot will still change from this version. The Concerto 2 Alpha is only for testing purposes and should NOT be used for actual deployments.

The Front End

We’ve put in a lot of work over the past few weeks to flesh out the software that displays Concerto content for all to see. Called the “frontend” in our technical lingo, this is the actual view that will appear on your screens. It’s organized by a template, which provides the screen layout and a background image. This build of the frontend includes some basic effects and can be used to view any screen that has been added by going to [concerto2]/frontend/[screen_id], where [concerto2] is the URL to your instance and [screen_id] is the numerical id for a screen you have added through the Concerto Panel.

Finally, A Proper Interface for Subscriptions

Screen subscriptions are the lifeblood of any Concerto display – they tell the screen which content feeds it should show, and how frequently. In the first build of the Concerto Alpha there wasn’t any nice way to manage these screen subscriptions. But in this build we’ve completely overhauled the entire interface. The interface is even simpler than in v1 – just click the “Add new feed” button to see a list of all feeds currently in your Concerto instance. You can start typing in the search box to filter the list. Click a feed to add it to your running list, where you can adjust screen frequencies with a series of sliders. These frequencies range from showing content in a subscribed feed very rarely to showing them often. When you’ve comfortable with your settings, just click the Save button lit up in blue to commit your changes to the database. When this is done, your screen will automatically pull down your preferences and assemble a fresh batch of content. It’s that simple.

Revamped Admin Dashboard

The Dashboard is your home base as a administrator to manage your Concerto instance and plugins. While we don’t have the entire plugin infrastructure in place yet, this will be where you go to activate and deactivate plugins, change settings, and view the status of admin utilities.

Other Changes…

We’ve increased the pace of development on Concerto 2 and have been making a huge number of tweaks and enhancements all over the application. Of note is a more accurate means of importing templates using XML descriptors. We are also putting bits of code in place to support our forthcoming plugin system, including view hooks that will allow plugin developers to expose settings and other views in the Concerto Panel.

We urgently need your help in testing this new build: please follow our new setup guide and post your feedback on our Google group. We hope you enjoy the new stuff and look forward to releasing another build with the full plugin infrastructure and other essential components within a few weeks. Enjoy the holiday and look forward to 2013 with us!

View the full list of changes between 0.0.1.alpha and 0.0.2.alphamoose here.

Moderation in Concerto 2

A key part of using Concerto is moderating content to appear on one or more feeds.  In Concerto 1, we introduced a very simple moderation feature that allowed people with control over one or more feeds to approve or deny submissions to their feeds.  The first version of the Concerto Panel featured a sidebar that always kept a running count of all submissions awaiting moderation.  For Concerto 2, we want to preserve the simplicity of moderation while incorporating it directly into our spiffy new Browse Content interface, which we hope will be a more streamlined way of perusing and managing content than what you saw in Version 1.  Let’s take a look.

Browsing content is faster than ever

The front page of Concerto 2, where you can peruse feeds in the network.

The new Browse Content interface combines the visual thumbnails of the Concerto Wall in Version 1 with a fast and fluid AJAX-enhanced navigation to give users a high-fidelity way of looking at content.  Right from the front page you can find a full feed list.  In Concerto 2 we’re introducing sub-feeds, which allow you to create simple hierarchies of related content categories.  For example, in my local copy of Concerto 2 I have an Entertainment feed, with several sub-feeds including Concerts and Comedy Shows.  Content can be submitted to one or more feeds as in Concerto 1.  So as you see here, on the front page of my local Concerto 2 install I have a listing of feeds and sub-feeds.  I can click on any of these feed titles to jump to that feed’s browse page.  With JavaScript turned on (though it works fine without it, too!), the page loads via AJAX in an instant.

The new Browse Feed page, centered on my Entertainment feed.

Here you see the Entertainment feed with several active submissions.  These have been previously approved to appear on the feed during certain date/time windows.

And now for the moderating

The new Moderate page listing. Note that there’s a defect with the number of feeds containing pending content that will be fixed shortly.

With the new Browse Content interface in mind, let’s take a look at how we handle moderation in Concerto 2.  We have a new top menu that appears at the top of the browser window while a user is logged in.  Here you see a big Moderate button, which is available in the top menu at all times if you are allowed to moderate one or more feeds.  In Concerto 2 as in the first version, feeds are “owned” by groups of users, all of whom have moderation capabilities over those feeds owned by their groups.

The Moderate button will display a count of pending submissions gathered across all of your owned feeds.  If I have nothing to moderate, the count inside the button is zero and it’s grayed out; otherwise, it’ll turn red.  When I click on the button, I’m presented with a list of my feeds containing pending submissions.

One way to moderate content – right from the Browse Feed page!

Now, instead of having a separate moderation view for a feed, it’s all integrated directly into the browse pages.  Pending submissions appear at the top of a feed’s browse page, and you can click the the button below each submission to approve or deny the content.  It all happens on one page, which means that you don’t have to keep clicking back and forth.  However, if you want to see a zoomed-in version of the content, just click on it to view.  We’ve carried the same Moderate… button across to this page as well so that you can approve or deny it right from this page as well.

When the content is approved, it’ll appear in one or lower lists on the feed’s browse page. And that’s all there is to it.  As with Concerto 1, you can change the moderation status of content at any time, either from a browse feed page or by clicking on and viewing a single content submission.

A moderator can also change the moderation status directly from the submission’s show page.

Try it out for yourself

Interested in playing around with the moderation interface on your own?  It’s live at nightly.concerto-signage.org.  You can also join along with the development at our Github page.  Hit us up in the comments to let us know what you think about it!

Concerto Site Updates: Trademark Policy and Graphics

Interested in using the Concerto logo or name for another website, application, or publication?  We’ve added the Concerto Trademark Policy to our website.  This policy clarifies the usage of the Concerto identity and brand.  Check it out and let us know if you have any questions or comments about the policy!

In addition, we’ve added a new page to the site covering Logos and Graphics.  Here you can download PDF and PNG versions of our official project logo, in blue (the default colorset), black, and white (for cases where the logo appears above colored backgrounds).  We’ll be adding more information to both pages over the coming weeks, but we hope they are helpful to the Concerto community right from the start.

Concerto 2 on Github

We’ve decided to use Github Issues to track Concerto 2 development.  We’ll be using the issue tracker and milestone system on our Concerto 2 Issues page to log all defects that are found with the software as we continue to develop, and also to plan out and share strategic objectives of our Concerto 2 roadmap.  We hope that by organizing everything in one place, right next to the Concerto 2 codebase, it will be much easier to keep tabs on our forthcoming release.

To view the Concerto 2 Issues tracker, click here.  You can also peruse the codebase here.

Right now, we’re bringing together a Requirements wiki page to keep track of all of our high-level requirements for v2.  We’ll be gradually turning those requirements into issues within our Github tracker.

 

Welcome to the Concerto Blog!

We have relaunched the home site of the Concerto Digital Signage Project, http://www.concerto-signage.org, on a new server and new content management application.  This relaunch will allow us to keep the site better updated with information about the first version of Concerto and the forthcoming sequel, Concerto 2.

In addition, we’ve added a real blog for the Concerto Project, which you’re now reading.  As a team, we want to keep you updated with the latest happenings in the world of Concerto, and this blog will be the destination for posts about many kinds of topics relevant to the project: development updates, the digital signage landscape, how Concerto is being used around the world, and updates from the Concerto community at large.  We want the blog to be a gathering place for all of us.  I’m sure the future will be very exciting!

Those of us writing for the blog will do our best to keep it updated regularly.  We urge you to hit up the comments section and get involved!