Shuttleworth on the Ubuntu Linux 12.04 beta

Shuttleworth on the Ubuntu Linux 12.04 beta

Summary: Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu Linux's father, is proud of where Ubuntu is going and thinks that the next version will bring real desktop user experience innovation "before it shows up in Windows or MacOS."


Ubuntus new 12.04s Head-Up Display desktop.

Ubuntu's new 12.04's Head-Up Display desktop.

Microsoft wants you to love Metro. Apple is bringing iOS and Mac OS X closer together with every release. But, Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu Linux and its parent company Canonical, thinks that if you want "real desktop user experience innovation" … "before it shows up in Windows or MacOS," you need to check out Ubuntu 12.04's forthcoming Head Up Display (HUD).

In a blog posting, Shuttleworth wrote that while Ubuntu 12.04, Precise Pangolin, which just went to beta, is still far from "job done" the new HUD desktop is ready for a wider audience.

A first look at Ubuntu Linux's Head-Up Display (Gallery)

Shuttleworth knows that there's been a lot of push-back first to Ubuntu's new-user friend Unity desktop and now to the next step beyond Unity, HUD. He thanks "Those who stood by Ubuntu, Canonical and me as we set out on this adventure. This was a big change, and in the face of change, many wilt, many panic, and some simply find that their interests lie elsewhere. That's OK, but it brings home to me the wonderful fellowship that we have amongst those who share our values and interests--their affiliation, advocacy and support is based on something much deeper than a fad or an individualistic need, it's based on a desire to see all of this intellectual wikipedia-for-code value unleashed to support humanity at large, from developers to data centre devops to web designers to golden-years-ganderers, serving equally the poorest and the bankers who refuse to serve them, because that's what free software and open content and open access and level playing fields are all about."

He then explains that the idea behind HUD was to "refine the experience for people who use the desktop professionally, and at the same time, make it easier for the first-time user. That's a very hard challenge. We're not making Bob, [Microsoft's infamously bad 1995 optional interface] we're making a beautiful, easy to use LCARS [the fictional interface to computers in the Star Trek universe]. We measured the state of the art in 2008 and it stank on both fronts. When we measure Ubuntu today, based on how long it takes heavy users to do things, and a first-timer to get (a different set of) things done, 12.04 LTS blows 10.04 LTS right out of the water and compares favourably with both MacOS and Windows 7. Unity today is better for both hard-core developers and first-time users than 10.04 LTS was. Hugely better."

For the developers, Shuttleworth lists the following advantages:

  • A richer set of keyboard bindings for rapid launching, switching and window management
  • Pervasive search results in faster launching for occasional apps
  • Far less chrome in the shell than any other desktop; it gets out of your way
  • Much more subtle heuristics to tell whether you want the launcher to reveal, and to hint it's about to
  • Integrated search presents a faster path to find any given piece of content
  • Magic window borders and the resizing scrollbar make for easier window sizing despite razor-thin visual border
  • Full screen apps can include just the window title and indicators - full screen terminal with all the shell benefits

Shuttleworth is well aware that many Linux professionals and developers dislike Unity. He assures them that for the next version of Ubuntu, "we have focused testing on more advanced users and use cases, with user journeys that include many terminal windows, and there is a measurable step up in the effectiveness of Unity in those cases. Still rough edges to be sure, even in this 12.04 release (we are not going to be able to land locally-integrated menus in time, given the freeze dates and need for focus on bug fixes) but we will SRU [stable release updates] key items and of course continue to polish it in 12.10 onwards. We are all developers, and we all use it all the time, so this is in our interests too."

As for HUD, which Shuttleworth sees as "a totally new kind of UI for complex apps. We're deconstructing the traditional UI, expressing goodness from the inside out. It's going to be a rich vein of innovation and exploration, and the main beneficiaries will be those who use computers to create amazing things, whether it's the kernel, or movies. Yes, we are moving beyond the desktop, but we are also innovating to make the desktop itself, better." But, unlike Microsoft which is forcing uses into Metro in Windows 8, HUD will be "totally optional."

Related Stories:

Ubuntu 12.04 'Precise Pangolin' goes beta

What does Ubuntu want to be when it grows up?

Linux users cautiously optimistic about Ubuntu's Head-Up Display desktop

Beyond the desktop: Ubuntu Linux's new Head-Up Display

Mint's Cinnamon: The Future of the Linux Desktop? (Review)

Topics: Hardware, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

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  • Pangolin

    Tried unity. Didn't like it. Looks like I'm going back to it now
    • Yup

      Same here. But, I'm not going back to it since Xfce is lightweight and works fine for me.
      • finally

        I don't understand why all these gnome forks are coming out when Xfce is just as good as (if not better) then the gnome2 series.
      • same old anti-unity jibes...

        I see Shuttleworth as a daring visionary... a lot of that ilk are usually heavily criticized while planting the seeds for something special. Besides; there aren't too many others who have managed to keep Linux in the tech-news like he has.
  • Unity is coming into its own.

    It finally works, and has cool features, and in light of my Metro usage so far, Unity is looking better all the time. At least there was some real thought and effort put into Unity's usability by human beings (with real human mistakes made like some massive hubris from Shuttleworth) and not by a MS MBA droid in a boardroom trying to prove their worth by Powerpoint slides on how good the new interface is.

    With that said, I personally still don't like Unity and stick to KDE, XFCE or LXDE depending on what requirements I have to hw and software. I don't despise it, but I don't like it either.
  • The only reason...

    I love Windows 7 as my primary, but the only reason I'm happy about the direction Windows 8 and OSX are taking (which clearly proves that they're happy taking a dump on professionals to sell more tablets to kids), is so that Ubuntu will get even more traction and fame due to looking far better by comparison than it ever did in the past.
    Looking forward to the release more than any before it :)
    • Is that so....

      So you think only kids are buying tablets?
      • Kids of all ages...

        I use my iPad for web browsing, games, email, a smattering of social networking (being more than a little paranoid about 'social networking') and little things like route finding and book cataloging. All these things are those that the 'kid' in me does. There is nothing professional about any of these usage patterns. So I'd say that it is kids of all ages buying tablets. There is no way I would consider doing work on a tablet. Talk about an ergonomic nightmare!
  • Now if they can get graphics rendering straightened out

    It's still easier to look at a windows desktop, because it does a nicer job at rendering and resizing graphics without the sawtooth edges, etc. the fonts aren't blurry either. Fix that and they'll have something. I think that's part and parcel to gnome.
  • Still Won't Run on my Laptop

    Since there is still no real fix for drivers for hybrid graphics cards, and since just about every new high end laptop has one, looks like I won't be running this release (or mint or any other distro). Very much a shame. And no it does not matter if its Nvidia or ATI's fault for not making a driver. If it won't run, I can't use it.
    • Which card?

      I have an APU working just fine.

      That aside, too much change hits people in the learning curve. Making large changes like this on dissuades those who have spent the time to make the OS part of their lives. They are basically saying that all the effort you put in is a waste and you now have to start over again (and with Linux distros, this is ALWAYS some pain that has to be dealt with and worked around).
      • Which Card?

        ATI Radeon
    • Linux Kernel 3.2

      Have you tried Kubuntu 12.04 Beta 1? It worked out of the box with my AMD A6-3400 laptop.
      Grayson Peddie
    • it might get better...

      NVIDIA just joined the Free Software Association or something this week. Is there are chance their drivers might just be released open source now? If so, graphic problems gone (if you have a Nvidia card)
  • i like linux

    this article is important for future
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  • This is what it's all about

    Well-thought-out disruption. That is what this industry needs and has been lacking for so long. We should *all* applaud Shuttleworth and Company for critically examining how this kind of product actually works with humans. The same accolades to Microsoft, and for the same reasons.

    The OS environment will only continue to become more complex and the apps more demanding. Users, though, will *require* more simplicity to just make it through the day. People hate change, and we certainly don't need change for change's sake (see iPad HD). But when there is genuine improvement from a fresh approach, we should at least embrace the effort and give it a reasonable chance by supporting it.

    I'm in line for a download.
  • Mark, Mark, Mark...

    When people buy a computer, it comes with Windows. Or they have to buy one with Linux at a premium. Fix that. Find someone to make one that's cheaper than Windows and everything works right out of the box.
    • There have been...

      There have been computers with linux installed that were cheaper than Windows ones. They just didn't sell that well.

      The average customer in Walmart wants to be able to run Mircosoft Office, browse the web, play music and maybe play games. The typical salesman doesn't know anything about Linux and thus the stupid answers I've heard to customers acting questions.

      Apple has the benefit of having it's own stores stocked with sales people "who know the Mac" and can answer any concerns the customer may have.

      This is what linux needs in order to really gain desktop space. Just making it cheaper than a windows machine will do nothing.
      • Ubuntu Success

        Let me first be clear that I don't measure Ubuntu's success by number of machines running it.

        That said, however, what Ubuntu will need for volume sales is exactly what Android needed for volume sales - a great marketing campaign.

        Futuristic bombers dropping Droidbombs started the stampede that resulted in Android gaining 50% of the smartphone market (which I think is plenty - don't want a monopoly, even for Linux).

        I argue that an equally competent Ubuntu-based product supported with an equally exciting marketing campaign for Ubuntu would have the same effect.
    • Wrong! Thanks for playing.

      No, you are wrong. Ubuntu needs to stop being the OS for everyone and be the OS for the elite power user. Why try and compete in a space with 2 other mega companies - one who's chairman is the 2nd richest man in the world, and one who's company is the biggest in the USA? I mean Shuttleworth thinks he can take them on?

      Linux has NEVER succeeded in the "OS for Everyone" space. Why should it now?

      Basically, it shouldn't. Make it a killer OS for power users who consider themselves elite and more computer literate than their grandmas and you've got a chance. Otherwise, forget about it.