I’m happy to announce that today I filed for a Feature Freeze Exception to get the latest Unity stack into Ubuntu Raring. It’s a lot of new code, but it should all be available in a PPA in the next day or so, and it’ll be available there for about two weeks for people to test and provide feedback before it lands. I won’t go into all of the fixes, performance work and other technical changes, but if you’re interested in what this means for you as a user, keep reading.
Discussed during a UDS-style Ubuntu On-Air hangout back in January, Smart Scopes use an intelligent server-side service to decide when they should be used to search. This allows a single process (the Dash Home) to run a query through only a sub-set of your installed scopes. It also allows the scopes processes to be terminated when you close the dash, and only re-start those that are likely to produce a relevant result. As defined by the spec, this service will learn as more people use it, providing more relevant results, so you don’t get unwanted Amazon product results when it should be obvious you’re looking for an application. It also means fewer running processes on your local machine, and therefore less memory usage overall.
While there won’t be quite 100 in this release, there will be more scopes installed on the client than in previous releases, and even more that we will be able to implement on the server-side. Thanks to the Smart Scope Service, these additional local scopes won’t be using up a lot of your system resources, because they’ll only be run when needed, then immediately terminated. You will be able to install 3rd party scopes, just as before, even ones that the Smart Scope Service doesn’t know about yet. Plus we will be able to add more server-side scopes during the lifetime of a stable release. So while we’re not at 100 yet, there is still a large and growing number of scopes available.
Now I know I couldn’t get away with talking about changes to the Dash, especially ones that put more of it’s functionality online, without talking about privacy concerns. With these changes we’ve tried to strike a balance between control and convenience, privacy and productivity. So while we’re providing more fine-grained controls over what scopes to enable, and whether or not to use the Smart Scope service, the default will still be to enable the services that we believe provides the best user experience on Ubuntu. In addition, 13.04 has already added more notice to users that their the Dash will search online sources as well as local.