Ubuntu developing new Unity UI, instant-on versions for netbook

Ubuntu developing new Unity UI, instant-on versions for netbook

Summary: Canonical is making fast progress on a promise to improve the netbook experience by launching a new user interface dubbed "Unity" and plans for light editions of Ubuntu.In a Mark Shuttleworth blog posted today, the Unity interface and light editions of Ubuntu under development are aimed at the dual-boot-instant-on netbook market.


Canonical is making fast progress on a promise to improve the netbook experience by launching a new user interface dubbed "Unity" and plans for light editions of Ubuntu.

In a Mark Shuttleworth blog posted today, the Unity interface and light editions of Ubuntu under development are aimed at the dual-boot-instant-on netbook market.

An early development codebase of Unity is available now for early testing and experimentation, he announced today. Unity will likely first surface in the netbook edition of the next Ubuntu version 10.10. Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu who recently left his post as Canonical's CEO to focus on development, said Unity does not use the GNOME shell because it is focused exclusively on this instant-on, netbook market and does not provide significant file management capabilities. Due to the niche aspect of this Linux interface effort, he does not see Unity or Ubuntu light as competitive to current and future GNOME and KDE interface shells.

Unity, he said, is optimized for the web services experience and will offer a "dash" interface, instant-on and touch capabilities. One chief goal is to maximize speed -- which is defined as getting users to the Internet and to cloud services pronto, rather than the typical fast boot-up metric everyone focused on.

It is also designed to maximize screen real estate, which is an issue for users of netbooks -- like me. Even writing a blog as simple as this is on a netbook is constraining. "We focused on maximising screen real estate for content," Shuttleworth wrote. 'In particular, we focused on maximising the available vertical pixels for web browsing. Netbooks have screens which are wide, but shallow. Notebooks in general are moving to wide screen formats. So vertical space is more precious than horizontal space."

Unity is also designed for the dual-boot environment; that is, for running Windows and Linux simultaneously on netbooks and desktops. This is a very smart move. Other Linux desktops have taken steps at running alongside windows well, but the lack of focus on dual boot has kept the Linux desktop use very low.

Here's a lot more about Unity and plans for various versions of Ubuntu light from Shuttleworth's own blog: "A few months ago we took on the challenge of building a version of Ubuntu for the dual-boot, instant-on market. We wanted to be surfing the web in under 10 seconds, and give people a fantastic web experience. We also wanted it to be possible to upgrade from that limited usage model to a full desktop.

The fruit of that R&D is both a new desktop experience codebase, called Unity, and a range of Light versions of Ubuntu, both netbook and desktop, that are optimised for dual-boot scenarios.

Those constraints and values lead us to a new shape for the desktop, which we will adopt in Ubuntu’s Netbook Edition for 10.10 and beyond.

First, we want to move the bottom panel to the left of the screen, and devote that to launching and switching between applications. That frees up vertical space for web content, at the cost of horizontal space, which is cheaper in a widescreen world. In Ubuntu today the bottom panel also presents the Trash and Show Desktop options, neither of which is relevant in a stateless instant-on environment.

Second, we’ll expand that left-hand launcher panel so that it is touch-friendly. With relatively few applications required for instant-on environments, we can afford to be more generous with the icon size there. The Unity launcher will show what’s running, and support fast switching and drag-and-drop between applications.

Third, we will make the top panel smarter. We’ve already talked about adopting a single global menu, which would be rendered by the panel in this case. If we can also manage to fit the window title and controls into that panel, we will have achieved very significant space saving for the case where someone is focused on a single application at a time, and especially for a web browser.

We have an initial starting point for the design, called the Dash, which presents files and applications as an overlay. The inspiration for the Dash comes from consoles and devices, which use full-screen, media-rich presentation. We want the Dash to feel device-like, and use the capabilities of modern hardware.

The Unity Dash, showing the Applications Place

The instant-on requirements and constraints proved very useful in shaping our thinking, but the canvas is still blank for the more general, netbook use case. Unity gives us the chance to do something profoundly new and more useful, taking advantage of ideas that have emerged in computing from the console to the handheld.

Unity does embrace the key technologies of Gnome 3: Mutter, for window management, and Zeitgeist will be an anchor component of our file management approach. The interface itself is built in Clutter.

Topics: Hardware, Mobility, Open Source

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  • RE: RE: Ubuntu developing new Unity UI, instant-on versions for netbook

    Excellent piece!
    But I've been waiting for the "instant-on" computer since the 1990s when all sorts of people said they would be here soon. <br>A new day or another false dawn? I sincerely hope the former and not the latter (again).
    • I don't know about "instant-on"...

      But I know about sleep mode. Works fast enough for me ~ 15 seconds or so on system loaded with adobe products (and no SSD).

      What's up with all that techno-babble?? "which presents files and applications as an overlay" Vertical space and horizontal real estate.... You know, I think MS said the same thing when they came out with XP and let you move the task bar to the other edges of the screen. Or was that Windows 2000? Can't remember, I'm getting too old.
      • RE: Ubuntu developing new Unity UI, instant-on versions for netbook

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    • BeOS was Instant On!

      @Agnostic_OS BeOS could boot instantly. Because of how it's file system worked (OS setting on a virtual database). If..... it ever crashed, it didn't even need to scan and recover corrupt data. Because there was none.

      As far as a modern multi-media web experience goes, it hasn't been surpassed for it's speed in either Boot Up or as compute operations OS with web access.

      Being completely modular, meant there was no sequence or order in booting services. It simply booted them all at once!

      Chrome OS will be the first actual attempt to duplicate the "Instant On" computing experience that on BeOS was just taken for granted. Because that's how it was designed in the first place.

      HP sets in a unique position having acquired Palm. They have the power to go back and resurrect BeOS and bring it back from the grave it didn't deserve to be buried in!
  • My Ubuntu 10.04 Goes from Suspend to Password Screen in 6 Seconds

    AS with rock06r I use suspend, and my net book a 10 Inch Pioneer Dreambook running Ubuntu Netbook Remix goes from Suspend to the Password Required screen in 6 Seconds, and from there to the desktop in less than 1 (obviously, as the desktop is already loaded). It also goes from cold start, so that includes POST to the desktop in 18 Seconds.

    Instant on would be nice, but I don't have a problem with the current responsiveness, I just use the machine with Suspend all the time, 6 seconds, that is pretty much what they are offering with instant on, and it's quicker than my current smart phone, or the iPhone I used to have until the restrictiveness of it got up my nose.

    With respect to the vertical space, I'm currently using the machine with a standard desktop. UNR 10.04 comes with the option to boot with the netbook desktop or the standard desktop. Which ever I use the first thing I do is make the top (and Bottom in the case of the standard Desktop) panel auto hide, that frees up all the available vertical space. I'd use GNOME Shell, only I can't make the top panel auto hide. GNOME Shell with a 40 or 50 pixel auto hiding side panel (to put stuff on) would be nice.
    tracy anne
  • Will this also be a lightweight Ubuntu-for-tablets?

    I'm imagining a purpose-built version of Ubuntu that would allow users to buy a used tablet with as little as a Pentium II and 128mbs of ram, replace the hard-drive with a battery-friendly CF card, and install a Ubuntu remix that would rival (or at least approximate) the iPad.

    Features could include:

    - Friendly UI
    - Good handwriting recognition
    - Finger-friendly onscreen keyboard
    - Really, really good repository of touchscreen drivers
    - Really good GUI utility for calibrating the touchscreen.

    Right now I run LXDE on my old, used Fujitsu tablet(s). But it's not QUITE what I want from the device.
  • Instant On? I adore my Commodore 64!

    Heh heh heh ...
  • Interesting UI Design

    But I do have a question. Can the Orca screen reader be streamlined so that those who are blind can access the Unity desktop for netbook use? The current Orca preferences takes up a lot of vertical space -- more than 600 pixels in height.
    Grayson Peddie
  • RE: Ubuntu developing new Unity UI, instant-on versions for netbook

    I have (and still use) a Samsung Izzi Pro. It was one of the first Windows CE Pro clamshell designs with a proper keyboard and a twistable screen so it could be used as a tablet.
    I bought it in 2000(ish) and it cost me 800 english pounds (actually it cost me about 3 times that since I broke the first two, all my own fault). It was truly instant-on and instant-off. A flick of the power and the screen was on and ready to type in less that a sec, same for shut down.
    Now I know it was Windows Ce 3 but it had pocket word (I just use it for note taking) which was all I needed and it lasted a couple of days on a charge.
    All this talk of instant-on computers makes me cuckle to myself as it seems people have forgotten the actual meaning of the word instant :)
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