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Paper: Goodbye to WIMPs: A Scalable Interface for ALMA Operations
Volume: 442, Astronomical Data Analysis Software and Systems XX (ADASSXX)
Page: 247
Authors: Schwarz, J.; Pietriga, E.; Schilling, M.; Grosbol, P.
Abstract: The operators of the ALMA Observatory will monitor and control more than 50 mm/submm radio antennas and their associated instrumentation from an operations site that is separated from this hardware by 35–50 km. Software that enables them to identify trouble spots and react to failures quickly in this environment will be critical to the safe and efficient functioning of the observatory. Early commissioning of ALMA uses a operator interface implemented with a standard window, icon, menu, pointing device (WIMP) toolkit. Early experience indicates that this paradigm will not scale well as the number of antennas approaches its full complement. Operators lose time as they manipulate overlapping or tabbed windows to drill-down to detailed diagnostic data, losing a feeling for “where they are” in the process. The WIMP model reaches its limits when there is so much information to present to users that they cannot focus on details while maintaining a view from above. To simplify the operators' tasks and let them concentrate on the real issues at hand rather than continually re-organizing their use of screen space, we are replacing the existing top-level interface with a multi-scale interface that takes advantage of semantic zooming, dynamic network visualization and other advanced filtering, navigation and visualization features. Following the first of several planned participatory design workshops, we have developed prototypes to show how users' needs can be met with the kinds of navigation that become possible when the restrictions of the WIMP model are lifted. Cycles of design and implementation coupled with active user feedback will characterize this project up through deployment.
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