On Democratic Republics and Meritocratic Oligarchies

There’s a saying in American political debate that is as popular as it is wrong, which happens when one side appeals to our country’s democratic ideal, and the other side will immediately counter with “The United States is a Republic, not a Democracy”. I’ve noticed a similar misunderstanding happening in open source culture around the phrase “meritocracy” and the negatively-charged “oligarchy”. In both cases, though, these are not mutually exclusive terms. In fact, they don’t even describe the same thing.

Authority

One of these terms describes where the authority to lead (or govern) comes from. In US politics, that’s the term “republic”, which means that the authority of the government is given to it by the people (as opposed to divine-right, force of arms, of inheritance). For open source, this is where “meritocracy” fits in, it describes the authority to lead and make decisions as coming from the “merit” of those invested with it. Now, merit is hard to define objectively, and in practice it’s the subjective opinion of those who can direct a project’s resources that decides who has “merit” and who doesn’t. But it is still an important distinction from projects where the authority to lead comes from ownership (either by the individual or their employer) of a project.

Enfranchisement

History can easily provide a long list of Republics which were not representative of the people. That’s because even if authority comes from the people, it doesn’t necessarily come from all of the people. The USA can be accurately described as a democracy, in addition to a republic, because participation in government is available to (nearly) all of the people. Open source projects, even if they are in fact a meritocracy, will vary in what percentage of their community are allowed to participate in leading them. As I mentioned above, who has merit is determined subjectively by those who can direct a project’s resources (including human resource), and if a project restricts that to only a select group it is in fact also an oligarchy.

Balance and Diversity

One of the criticisms leveled against meritocracies is that they don’t produce diversity in a project or community. While this is technically true, it’s not a failing of meritocracy, it’s a failing of enfranchisement, which as has been described above is not what the term meritocracy defines. It should be clear by now that meritocracy is a spectrum, ranging from the democratic on one end to the oligarchic on the other, with a wide range of options in between.

The Ubuntu project is, in most areas, a meritocracy. We are not, however, a democracy where the majority opinion rules the whole. Nor are we an oligarchy, where only a special class of contributors have a voice. We like to use the term “do-ocracy” to describe ourselves, because enfranchisement comes from doing, meaning making a contribution. And while it is limited to those who do make contributions, being able to make those contributions in the first place is open to anybody. It is important for us, and part of my job as a Community Manager, to make sure that anybody with a desire to contribute has the information, resources, and access to to so. That is what keeps us from sliding towards the oligarchic end of the spectrum.

 

Posted in Community, Economics, OpenSource, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Big improvements come from small changes

After I implemented infinite scrolling in uReadIt 2.0, I found that after a couple of page loads the UI would start to be sluggish. It’s not surprising, considering the number of components it kept adding to the ListView. But in order to keep the UI consistent, I couldn’t get rid of those items, because I wanted to be able to scroll back through old ones. What I needed was a way to make QML ignore them when they weren’t actually being displayed.

Today I found myself reading about the QML Scene Graph, which led me to realize that QML wouldn’t spend time and resources trying to render an item if it knew ahead of time that there wasn’t anything to render. So I made a 1 line change to my MultiColumnListView to set the opacity of off-screen components to 0.

 

One line change to make off-screen items transparent

One line change to make off-screen items transparent

I also found these cool ways to visualize what QML is doing in terms of drawing, which are very helpful when it comes to optimizing, and let me verify that my change was doing what I expected. I’m pretty sure Florian Boucault has shown me this before, but I had forgotten how he did it.

After change, only visible items rendered

After change, only visible items rendered

Before change, all items being rendered

Before change, all items being rendered

Posted in Programming | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ubuntu Incubator

The Ubuntu Core Apps project has proven that the Ubuntu community is not only capable of building fantastic software, but they’re capable of the meeting the same standards, deadlines and requirements that are expected from projects developed by employees. One of the things that I think made Core Apps so successful was the project management support that they all received from Alan Pope.

Project management is common, even expected, for software developed commercially, but it’s just as often missing from community projects. It’s time to change that. I’m kicking off a new personal[1] project, I’m calling it the Ubuntu Incubator.

get_excited_banner_banner_smallThe purpose of the Incubator is to help community projects bootstrap themselves, obtain the resources they need to run their project, and put together a solid plan that will set them on a successful, sustainable path.

To that end I’m going to devote one month to a single project at a time. I will meet with the project members regularly (weekly or every-other week), help define a scope for their project, create a spec, define work items and assign them to milestones. I will help them get resources from other parts of the community and Canonical when they need them, promote their work and assist in recruiting contributors. All of the important things that a project needs, other than direct contributions to the final product.

I’m intentionally keeping the scope of my involvement very focused and brief. I don’t want to take over anybody’s project or be a co-founder. I will take on only one project at a time, so that project gets all of my attention during their incubation period. The incubation period itself is very short, just one month, so that I will focus on getting them setup, not on running them.  Once I finish with one project, I will move on to the next[2].

How will I choose which project to incubate? Since it’s my time, it’ll be my choice, but the most important factor will be whether or not a project is ready to be incubated. “Ready” means they are more than just an idea: they are both possible to accomplish and feasible to accomplish with the person or people already involved, the implementation details have been mostly figured out, and they just need help getting the ball rolling. “Ready” also means it’s not an existing project looking for a boost, while we need to support those projects too, that’s not what the Incubator is for.

So, if you have a project that’s ready to go, but you need a little help taking that first step, you can let me know by adding your project’s information to this etherpad doc[3]. I’ll review each one and let you know if I think it’s ready, needs to be defined a little bit more, or not a good candidate. Then each month I’ll pick one and reach out to them to get started.

Now, this part is important: don’t wait for me! I want to speed up community innovation, not slow it down, so even if I add your project to the “Ready” queue, keep on doing what you would do otherwise, because I have no idea when (or if) I will be able to get to yours. Also, if there are any other community leaders with project management experience who have the time and desire to help incubate one of these project, go ahead and claim it and reach out to that team.

[1] While this compliments my regular job, it’s not something I’ve been asked to do by Canonical, and to be honest I have enough Canonical-defined tasks to consume my working hours. This is me with just my community hat on, and I’m inclined to keep it that way.

[2] I’m not going to forget about projects after their month is up, but you get 100% of the time I spend on incubation during your month, after that my time will be devoted to somebody else.

[3] I’m using Etherpad to keep the process as lightweight as possible, if we need something better in the future we’ll adopt it then.

Posted in Community, OpenSource, Programming, Projects | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Community Appreciation Day

When things are moving fast and there’s still a lot of work to do, it’s sometimes easy to forget to stop and take the time to say “thank you” to the people that are helping you and the rest of the community. So every November 20th we in Ubuntu have a Community Appreciation Day, to remind us all of the importance of those two little words. We should of course all be saying it every day, but having a reminder like this helps when things get busy.

Like so many who have already posted their appreciation have said, it would be impossible for me to thank everybody I want to thank. Even if I spent all day on this post, I wouldn’t be able to mention even half of them.  So instead I’m going to highlight two people specifically.

First I want to thank Scarlett Clark from the Kubuntu community. In the lead up to this last Ubuntu Online Summit we didn’t have enough track leads on the Users track, which is one that I really wanted to see more active this time around. The track leads from the previous UOS couldn’t do it because of personal or work schedules, and as time was getting scarce I was really in a bind to find someone. I put out a general call for help in one of the Kubuntu IRC channels, and Scarlett was quick to volunteer. I really appreciated her enthusiasm then, and even more the work that she put in as a first-time track lead to help make the Users track a success. So thank you Scarlett.

Next, I really really want to say thank you to Svetlana Belkin, who seems to be contributing in almost every part of Ubuntu these days (including ones I barely know about, like Ubuntu Scientists). She was also a repeat track lead last UOS for the Community track, and has been contributing a lot of great feedback and ideas on ways to make our amazing community even better. Most importantly, in my opinion, is that she’s trying to re-start the Ubuntu Leadership team, which I think is needed now more than ever, and which I really want to become more active in once I get through with some deadline-bound work. I would encourage anybody else who is a leader in the community, or who wants to be one, to join her in that. And thank you, Svetlana, for everything that you do.

It is both a joy and a privilege to be able to work with people like Scarlett and Svetlana, and everybody else in the Ubuntu community. Today more than ever I am reminded about how lucky I am to be a part of it.

Posted in Community, Events | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Economic warfare in FOSS

Or, How to destroy a project rather than compete with it.

Whether they are conscious of it or not, many parts of our community have engaged in it, and it’s hurting us all. When a project comes along that some people don’t like, but they can’t (or won’t) compete with it, they will too often revert into a series of attacks that systematically tear that project down.

Those steps, as I have observed them, are recorded below. I do this not to instruct people on how to do it (nobody ever needed it described to them in detail in order to participate in it) but rather in the hope that it will help the rest of us identify it when it starts to happen, and call it our for what it is.

Step 1: Demonize the project

These things always start with an attack on the character of the project itself. The groups that strongly oppose it are, at this point, always too small for their opinion to change anything. But they are almost always vocal enough to be heard, and that’s all that is needed. As post after post, comment after comment, starts to saturate communication channels, they setup the meme that this project is not just technically bad, but morally bad. It shouldn’t exist, the people who built it shouldn’t have built it, and people that use it shouldn’t be using it. They will use emotionally charged language, hyperbole or outright lies to turn people against the very idea of the project existing. They won’t turn everybody, in fact they won’t even turn a majority, but if they can convince enough people that they are right, they can direct this new following towards the next step.

Step 2: Intimidate their supporters

Having raised their quasi-army of opponents through persistent attacks on the project, they will turn them loose on the supporters of that project. They can’t attack them directly, at this point they’re still a relatively small movement and dependent on the acquiescence of the rest of the community to continue in this behavior. Instead they will playfully mock those supporters, making a point to embarrass them or question their intelligence because of their support. The point of this isn’t to change anybody’s mind, it’s to drive those supporters underground, make them hesitant to show their support, and make it look like the project is losing support even if it isn’t. Without a tangible community of users and supporters, the project’s contributors become entirely dependent on each other for the support and recognition that is essential in motivating volunteer contributions.

Step 3: Undermine their contributors

With the loss of a protective support community, and an increasingly emboldened number of attackers, they will at this point begin to attack the people actually contributing to the project itself. By now those involved in the project will have begun to close themselves off from the community, a reaction to try and insulate themselves from what is happening to them. Because of this, there isn’t much the opponents can do to them directly, so instead they begin to corner them in that project by cutting them off from any other project. Calls for boycotts will go out, project contributors will become persona-non-grata in other communities, and it will be at least strongly implied (if not explicitly declared) that any project or community that collaborates with them will suffer the same fate. With no supporters giving them recognition for work on the project, and being increasingly unable to have any of their work recognized and accepted by other projects, contributors will start to drop out, both of the targeted project itself and quite often the entire FOSS community as well.

Step 4: Attack the person

Quite often the previous steps are enough to destroy a project. With supporters not showing support, and contributors stopping their contribution, it would take a very strongly-willed person to carry on. If the project manages to continue with any measure of success, the attacks on the people at the core of it will become intense. Not many projects have survived to this point, so it’s difficult to give general descriptions of what will happen, but things will start to get very ugly, even to threats of violence. If the opposition group hasn’t begun to experience their own negative blow-back from what they’ve been doing, they will be able to continue these attacks until the people driving the project either give up, or are driven completely away from working in the community.

Prevention

All of this happens only when it’s allowed to happen. It isn’t inevitable, nor is it unstoppable.  It can be stopped at any point along this path, if enough of us decide that it ought to be stopped. I hope I don’t have to write another post convincing anybody that is ought to be stopped.

Prevention starts with identifying that this is happening, which is the reason I detailed it’s progress above. Once we know that it is happening, and how far along it has gotten, we can start to roll it back and undo some of the damage already done.

Defend the person

If it has gotten all the way to the final attack on the head of the project we must, as a community, be outspoken in our defence of them as people and as members of our community. You don’t have to like their project, or even support it, to honestly give support to the person. Ugly attacks, threats of violence, and any other attack on a person or their character should never be tolerated, and we need to make sure everybody knows that it won’t be tolerated.

Support the contributors

When the project’s contributors are under attack, and people are trying to isolate them from the rest of the community, it is important for them to be welcomed by other groups and projects, to continue to give recognition and value to the contributions they make elsewhere. At this point we are in danger of losing them as FOSS contributors, not just to one project but to any project, current of future. Even if you don’t see value in their current work, the lost potential for future contributions should be enough to motivate you to give them your support.

Speak up

If you support a project, don’t be afraid or ashamed to let people know it. When the supporters are being mocked or insulted, they need to hear from each other, or else feel alone in their support. Let them know they are not alone, let them know that you are not afraid to be seen supporting that project. It only takes a few voices, a few brave voices who refuse to be quieted, to make the others feel confident enough to do likewise.

Don’t be afraid

The best, and easiest, time to prevent this from happening is at the very start, when that initial opposition tries to turn you against a project. Whenever somebody starts to tell you that a project shouldn’t exist, or that it’s existence is going to be bad for you, be immediately skeptical. When they want to you be angry or afraid of it you should be questioning their intention. Especially when the code is open, it’s nearly impossible that it’s going to be able to cause you any real or lasting harm. Don’t let your emotions be hijacked by those who want to use you for their own purposes. Keep calm, use what works for you, make something better if you don’t like what’s available.

Posted in Community, Economics, OpenSource | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

The Ubuntu Online Summit: A Community Success

Last week was our second ever Ubuntu Online Summit, and it couldn’t have gone better. Not only was it a great chance for us in Canonical to talk about what we’re working on and get community members involved in the ongoing work, it was also an opportunity for the community to show us what they have been working on and give us an opportunity to get involved with them.

Community Track leads

This was also the second time we’ve recruited track leads from among the community. Traditionally leading a track was a responsibility given to one of the engineering managers within Canonical, and it was up to them to decide what sessions to put on the UDS schedule. We kept the same basic approach when we went to online vUDS. But starting with UOS 14.06, we asked leaders in the community to help us with that, and they’ve done a phenomenal job. This time we had Nekhelesh RamananthanJosé Antonio ReySvetlana BelkinRohan GargElfy, and Scarlett Clark take up that call, and they were instrumental in getting even more of the community involved

Community Session Hosts

uos_creatorsMore than a third of those who created sessions for this UOS were from the community, not Canonical. For comparison, in the last in-person UDS, less than a quarter of session creators were non-Canonical. The shift online has been disruptive, and we’ve tried many variations to try and find what works, but this metric shows that those efforts are starting to pay off. Community involvement, indeed community direction, is higher in these Online Summits than it was in UDS. This is becoming a true community event: community focused, community organized, and community run.

Community Initiatives

The Ubuntu Online Summit wasn’t just about the projects driven by Canonical, such as the Ubuntu desktop and phone, there were many sessions about projects started and driven by members of the community. Last week we were shown the latest development on Ubuntu MATE and KDE Plasma 5 from non-Canonical lead flavors. We saw a whole set of planning sessions for community developed Core Apps and an exciting new Component Store for app developers to share bits of code with each other. For outreach there were sessions for providing localized ISOs for loco teams and expanding the scope of the community-lead Start Ubuntu project. Finally we had someone from the community kick off a serious discussion about getting Ubuntu running on cars. Cars! All of these exciting sessions were thought up by, proposed by, and run by members of the community.

Community Improvements

This was a great Ubuntu Online Summit, and I was certainly happy with the increased level of community involvement in it, but we still have room to make it better. And we are going to make it better with help from the community. We will be sending out a survey to everyone who registered as attending for this UOS to gather feedback and ideas, please take the time to fill it out when you get the link. If you attended but didn’t register there’s still time, go to the link above, log in and save your attendance record. Finally, it’s never too early to start thinking about the next UOS and what sessions you might want to lead for it, so that you’re prepared when those track leads come knocking at your door.

Posted in Community, Events, Work | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

My Scopes Showdown Wishlist

A couple of weeks ago we announced the start of a contest to write new Unity Scopes. These are the Dash plugins that let you search for different kinds of content from different sources. Last week Alan Pope posted his Scopes Wishlist detailing the ones he would like to see. And while I think they’re all great ideas, they didn’t particularly resonate with my personal use cases. So I’ve decided to put together a wishlist of my own:

Ubuntu Community

I’ve started on one of these in the past, more to test-drive the Scope API and documentation (both of which have changed somewhat since then), but our community has a rather large amount of content available via open APIs or feeds, that could be combined into making one really great scope. My attempt used the LoCo Team Portal API, but there is also the Planet Ubuntu RSS feed (also feeds from a number of other websites), iCal feeds from Summit, a Google calendar for UbuntuOnAir, etc. There’s a lot of community data out there just waiting to be surfaced to Ubuntu users.

Open States

My friend Paul Tagliamante works for the Sunlight Foundation, which provides access to a huge amount of local law and political data (open culture + government, how cool is that?), including the Open States website which provides more local information for those of us in the USA. Now only could a scope use these APIs to make it easy for us citizens to keep up with that’s going on in our governments, it’s a great candidate to use the Location information to default you to local data no matter where you are.

Desktop

This really only has a purpose on Unity 8 on the desktop, and even then only for a short term until a normal desktop is implemented. But for now it would be a nice way to view your desktop files and such. I think that a Scope’s categories and departments might provide a unique opportunity to re-think how we use the desktop too, with the different files organized by type, sorted by date, and displayed in a way that suits it’s content.

There’s potential here to do some really interesting things, I’m just not sure what they are. If one of you intrepid developers has some good ideas, though, give it a shot.

Comics

Let’s be honest, I love web comics, you love web comics, we all love web comic. Wouldn’t it be super awesome if you got the newest, best webcomics on your Dash? Think about it, get your XKCD, SMBC or The Oatmeal delivered every day. Okay, it might be a productivity killer, but still, I’d install it.

Posted in Community, Events, OpenSource, Programming | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Joining the Ubuntu Online Summit

Next week we will be kicking off the November 2014 Ubuntu Online Summit where people from the Ubuntu community and Canonical will be hosting live video sessions talking about what is being worked on, what is currently available, and what the future holds across all of the Ubuntu ecosystem.

uos_scheduleWe are in the process of recruiting sessions and filling out the Summit Schedule for this event, which should be finalized at the start of next week. You can register that you are attending on the Summit website, where you can also mark specific sessions that you are interested in and get a personalized view of your schedule (and an available iCal feed too!) UOS is designed for participation, not just consumption. Every session will have active IRC channel that goes along with it where you can speak directly to the people on video. For discussion sessions, you’re encouraged to join the video yourself when you want to join the conversation.

Moreover, we want you to host sessions! Anybody who has an idea for a good topic for conversation, presentation, or planning and is willing to host the video (meaning you need to run a Google On-Air Hangout) can propose a session. You don’t need to be a Canonical employee, project leader, or even an Ubuntu member to run a session, all you need is a topic and a willingness to be the person to drive it. And don’t worry, we have track leads who have volunteered to help you get it setup.

These sessions will be split into tracks, so you can follow along with the topics that interest you. Or you can jump from track to track to see what everybody else in the community is doing. And if you want to host a session yourself, you can contact any one of the friendly Track Leads, who will help you get it registered and on the schedule.

Ubuntu Development

Those who have participated in the Ubuntu Developer Summit (UDS) in the past will find the same kind of platform-focused topics and discussions in the Ubuntu Development track. This track covers everything from the kernel to packaging, desktops and all of the Ubuntu flavors.

The track leads are: Will CookeŁukasz ZemczakSteve LangasekAntonio Rosales, and Rohan Garg

App & Scope Development

For developers who are targeting the Ubuntu platform, for both apps and Unity scopes, we will be featuring a number of presentations on the current state of the tools, APIs and documentation, as well as gathering feedback from those who have been using them to help us improve upon them in Ubuntu 15.04. You will also see a lot of planning for the Ubuntu Core Apps, and some showcases of other apps or technologies that developers are creating.

The track leads are: Tim PeetersMichael HallAlan Pope, and Nekhelesh Ramananthan

Cloud & DevOps

Going beyond the core and client side, Ubuntu is making a lot of waves in the cloud and server market these days, and there’s no better place to learn about what we’re building (and help us build it) that the Cloud & Devops track. Whether you want to roll out your own OpenStack cloud, or make your web service easy to deploy and scale out, you will find topics here that interest you.

The track leads are: Antonio RosalesMarco CeppiPatricia Gaughen, and José Antonio Rey

Community

The Ubuntu Online Summit is itself a community coordinated event, and we’ve got a track dedicated to helping us improve and grow the whole community. You can use this to showcase the amazing work that your team has been doing, or plan out new events and projects for the coming cycle. The Community Team from canonical will be there, as well as members of the various councils, flavors and boards that provide governance for the Ubuntu project.

The track leads are: David PlanellaDaniel HolbachSvetlana Belkin, and José Antonio Rey

Users

And of course we can’t forget about our millions or users, we have a whole track setup just to provide them with resources and presentations that will help them make the most out Ubuntu. If you have been working on a project for Ubuntu, you should think about hosting a session on this track to show it off. We’ll also be hosting several feedback session to hear directly from users about what works, what doesn’t, and how we can improve.

The track leads are: Nicholas SkaggsElfy, and Scarlett Clark

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Unity 8 Desktop

Will CookeThis is a guest post from Will Cooke, the new Desktop Team manager at Canonical. It’s being posted here while we work to get a blog setup on unity.ubuntu.com, which is where you can find out more about Unity 8 and how to get involved with it.

Intro

Understandably, most of the Ubuntu news recently has focused around phones. There is a lot of excitement and anticipation building around the imminent release of the first devices.  However, the Ubuntu Desktop has not been dormant during this time.  A lot of thought and planning has been given to what the desktop will become in the future; who will use it and what will they use it for.  All the work which is going in to the phone will be directly applicable to the desktop as well, since they will use the same code.  All the apps, the UI tweaks, everything which makes applications secure and stable will all directly apply to the desktop as well.  The plan is to have the single converged operating system ready for use on the desktop by 16.04.

The plan

We learned some lessons during the early development of Unity 7. Here’s what happened:

  • 11.04: New Unity as default
  • 11.10: New Unity version
  • 12.04: Unity in First LTS

What we’ve decided to do this time is to keep the same, stable Unity 7 desktop as the default while we offer users who want to opt-in to Unity8 an option to use that desktop. As development continues the Unity 8 desktop will get better and better.  It will benefit from a lot of the advances which have come about through the development of the phone OS and will benefit from continual improvements as the releases happen.

  • 14.04 LTS: Unity 7 default / Unity 8 option for the first time
  • 14.10: Unity 7 default / Unity 8 new rev as an option
  • 15.04: Unity 7 default / Unity 8 new rev as an option
  • 15.10: Potentially Unity 8 default / Unity 7 as an option
  • 16.04 LTS: Unity 8 default / Unity 7 as an option

As you can see, this gives us a full 2 cycles (in addition to the one we’ve already done) to really nail Unity 8 with the level of quality that people expect. So what do we have?

How will we deliver Unity 8 with better quality than 7?

Continuous Integration is the best way for us to achieve and maintain the highest quality possible.  We have put a lot of effort in to automating as much of the testing as we can, the best testing is that which is performed easily.  Before every commit the changes get reviewed and approved – this is the first line of defense against bugs.  Every merge request triggers a run of the tests, the second line of defense against bugs and regressions – if a change broke something we find out about it before it gets in to the build.

The CI process builds everything in a “silo”, a self contained & controlled environment where we find out if everything works together before finally landing in the image.

And finally, we have a large number of tests which run against those images. This really is a “belt and braces” approach to software quality and it all happens automatically.  You can see, we are taking the quality of our software very seriously.

What about Unity 7?

Unity 7 and Compiz have a team dedicated to maintenance and bug fixes and so the quality of it continues to improve with every release.  For example; windows switching workspaces when a monitor gets unplugged is fixed, if you have a mouse with 6 buttons it works, support for the new version of Metacity (incase you want to use the Gnome2 desktop) – added (and incidentally, a lot of that work was done by a community contributor – thanks Alberts!)

Unity 7 is the desktop environment for a lot of software developers, devops gurus, cloud platform managers and millions of users who rely on it to help them with their everyday computing.  We don’t want to stop you being able to get work done.  This is why we continue to maintain Unity 7 while we develop Unity 8.  If you want to take Unity 8 for a spin and see how its coming along then you can; if you want to get your work done, we’re making that experience better for you every day.  Best of all, both of these options are available to you with no detriment to the other.

Things that we’re getting in the new Ubuntu Desktop

  1. Applications decoupled from the OS updates.  Traditionally a given release of Ubuntu has shipped with the versions of the applications available at the time of release.  Important updates and security fixes are back-ported to older releases where required, but generally you had to wait for the next release to get the latest and greatest set of applications.  The new desktop packaging system means that application developers can push updates out when they are ready and the user can benefit right away.
  2. Application isolation.  Traditionally applications can access anything the user can access; photos, documents, hardware devices, etc.  On other platforms this has led to data being stolen or rendered otherwise unusable.  Isolation means that without explicit permission any Click packaged application is prevented from accessing data you don’t want it to access.
  3. A full SDK for writing Ubuntu apps.  The SDK which many people are already using to write apps for the phone will allow you to write apps for the desktop as well.  In fact, your apps will be write once run anywhere – you don’t need to write a “desktop” app or a “phone” app, just an Ubuntu app.

What we have now

The easiest way to try out the Unity 8 Desktop Preview is to use the daily Ubuntu Desktop Next live image:   http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/ubuntu-desktop-next/daily-live/current/   This will allow you to boot into a Unity 8 session without touching your current installation.  An easy 10 step way to write this image to a USB stick is:

  1. Download the ISO
  2. Insert your USB stick in the knowledge that it’s going to get wiped
  3. Open the “Disks” application
  4. Choose your USB stick and click on the cog icon on the righthand side
  5. Choose “Restore Disk Image”
  6. Browse to and select the ISO you downloaded in #1
  7. Click “Start restoring”
  8. Wait
  9. Boot and select “Try Ubuntu….”
  10. Done *

* Please note – there is currently a bug affecting the Unity 8 greeter which means you are not automatically logged in when you boot the live image.  To log in you need to:

  1. Switch to vt1 (ctrl-alt-f1)
  2. type “passwd” and press enter
  3. press enter again to set the current password to blank
  4. enter a new password twice
  5. Check that the password has been successfully changed
  6. Switch back to vt7 (ctrl-alt-f7)
  7. Enter the new password to login

 

Here are some screenshots showing what Unity 8 currently looks like on the desktop:

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The team

The people working on the new desktop are made up of a few different disciplines.  We have a team dedicated to Unity 7 maintenance and bug fixes who are also responsible for Unity 8 on the desktop and feed in a lot of support to the main Unity 8 & Mir teams. We have the Ubuntu Desktop team who are responsible for many aspects of the underlying technologies used such as GNOME libraries, settings, printing etc as well as the key desktop applications such as Libreoffice and Chromium.  The Ubuntu desktop team has some of the longest serving members of the Ubuntu family, with some people having been here for the best part of ten years.

How you can help

We need to log all the bugs which need to be fixed in order to make Unity 8 the best desktop there is.  Firstly, we need people to test the images and log bugs.  If developers want to help fix those bugs, so much the better.  Right now we are focusing on identifying where the work done for the phone doesn’t work as expected on the desktop.  Once those bugs are logged and fixed we can rely on the CI system described above to make sure that they stay fixed.

Link to daily ISOs:  http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/ubuntu-desktop-next/daily-live/current/

Bugs:  https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/unity8-desktop-session

IRC:  #ubuntu-desktop on Freenode

Posted in Community, OpenSource, Programming, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , | 45 Comments

1.0: The deadliest milestone

screenshot_1.0So it’s finally happened, one of my first Ubuntu SDK apps has reached an official 1.0 release. And I think we all know what that means. Yup, it’s time to scrap the code and start over.

It’s a well established mantra, codified by Fred Brooks, in software development that you will end up throwing away the first attempt at a new project. The releases between 0.1 and 0.9 are a written history of your education about the problem, the tools, or the language you are learning. And learn I did, I wrote a whole series of posts about my adventures in writing uReadIt. Now it’s time to put all of that learning to good use.

Often times projects still spend an extremely long time in this 0.x stage, getting ever closer but never reaching that 1.0 release.  This isn’t because they think 1.0 should wait until the codebase is perfect, I don’t think anybody expects 1.0 to be perfect. 1.0 isn’t the milestone of success, it’s the crossing of the Rubicon, the point where drastic change becomes inevitable. It’s the milestone where the old code, with all it’s faults, dies, and out of it is born a new codebase.

So now I’m going to start on uReadIt 2.0, starting fresh, with the latest Ubuntu UI Toolkit and platform APIs. It won’t be just a feature-for-feature rewrite either, I plan to make this a great Reddit client for both the phone and desktop user. To that end, I plan to add the following:

  • A full Javascript library for interacting with the Reddit API
  • User account support, which additionally will allow:
    • Posting articles & comments
    • Reading messages in your inbox
    • Upvoting and downvoting articles and comments
  • Convergence from the start, so it’s usable on the desktop as well
  • Re-introduce link sharing via Content-Hub
  • Take advantage of new features in the UITK such as UbuntuListView filtering & pull-to-refresh, and left/right swipe gestures on ListItems

Another change, which I talked about in a previous post, will be to the license of the application. Where uReadIt 1.0 is GPLv3, the next release will be under a BSD license.

Posted in OpenSource, Programming | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments