Orchestrating architectural installations and live shows with snaps

Dutch manufacturer Visual Productions BV, provides multi-platform software and solid-state hardware lighting control technology for namely the architectural, retail, venue and entertainment lighting industries. Originating from an engineering background, Visual Productions combines creative thinking with the talent of listening to market demands in order to develop innovative products.

Visual Productions mainly work with commercial businesses supplying lighting control to a variety of industries including architectural installations, retail, themed venues, cafes, restaurants, right through to live concerts and DJ/LJ events. The current portfolio consists of various high-tech, in-house developed, control solutions for intelligent, LED and conventional lighting equipment. The software applications and hardware devices are designed with a strong emphasis on usability; resulting in feature-rich and user-friendly lighting control products that are amongst the leading choices for lighting control in these sectors around the world.

The development of the software apps shows the innovative approach of Visual Productions, keeping up to date and often ahead of the market in providing technical solutions. The users of the apps range from technicians to artists and to non-technical or public users. The applications must, therefore, be designed to be 100% user-friendly to any of these users. This design process begins with facilitating multi-platform apps with the choice of which OS they may wish to use including Ubuntu.

We spoke to Michael Chiou, a software engineer, at Visual Productions to discover how and why they have used snaps.

Install from Ubuntu Store

How did you find out about snaps?

Over the last year, we have shifted our focus on distributing our software through stores such as Google Play rather than expecting users to come to our website to download the latest version of our software and navigate complicated install wizards. Generally, if an update can be delivered to a store, it is easier than asking people to go to our website. We researched the best way to distribute on Ubuntu and across multiple Linux distros which is where we discovered snaps.

What was the appeal of snaps that made you decide to invest in them?

We like the confinement channels that snaps offers. For example, we can use development mode to release a beta to specific customers but that isn’t visible elsewhere. Security is a big plus particularly code signing – it is more secure distributing through the store as people can’t maliciously change anything. We would like to see more security in the uApp Explorer store over who can publish and what is published though. Other advantages are the integration with CMake and the fact it seems to offer a good, future-proofed solution.

How easy was it to integrate with your existing infrastructure and process?

Officially we have 4 snaps released currently. We used the Snapcraft tool which was a convenient tool where we could just add the information in and the rest was done – it saved the need to maintain ourselves. When you adopt a new format, there is always a bit of a learning curve but this helped make the process easier.

Do you currently use the snap store as a way of distributing your software?

We really like the store and use it to distribute our snaps. One feature, in particular, is when you publish a new update, you come to to the top of all new releases.

What release channels (edge/beta/candidate/stable) in the store are you using or plan to use, if any?

We mostly use the development channel – only to those who we want to check the snap status. We have released stable versions for most of our apps. We did try candidate but found it wasn’t too different to development so we mostly use that and then release.

How would you improve the snap system?

It’s really easy to use the terminal, but for a more casual user, the store inside the OS would be an easier option. We would also like to see a rise in the standards of what you need to get a snap published so as to increase the quality rather than quantity. For first time users, the Snapcraft forum is an inspiration and is definitely useful when getting started. Overall, we believe stores are the future so this is a good solution for us to work with in the long term.

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