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Ubuntu/Unity 12.04 – Developer’s Playground?

The post you are about to read is my opinion and my experience. I’ve been told in the past, ‘You’re just the end user.’ So that’s the perspective you are going to get. In addition, it is neither my ambition nor goal to become a programmer/developer/packager.

I came to Ubuntu looking for a change and a better experience. I’m currently running Ubuntu 12.04 on my every day laptop. I have friends – they are like me – daily ‘end users’. I also released an Orientation Guide to Ubuntu 12.04. I have a real soft spot for new people (end users) coming into the Ubuntu community and understand first hand the learning curve they will need to take on. My curve was steep – hard, and I stumbled a lot. Knowing that I can help another person lessen this curve really makes me happy.

Everything sounds just lovely doesn’t it? So what is up with the title of this post?

Well, since May 5 – the day Ubuntu Vancouver choose to do a documentation editing jam for the 12.04 documents – I was told something that has been eating away at me.

I was told that the version of Unity that was released on 12.04 had already changed by May 5. What does this mean exactly? Well, it meant the documentation that was in final draft at the end of April was now out of date. The screen shots that you see in the document, may not match up with your experience with Ubuntu/Unity.

Unity was going to have its own version number and it changes midstream between 12.04 to 12.10. I’m ok with updates and fixes and improvements. I’m not ok with having to check my Unity version number constantly so that I can ask my friend a question because an icon has ‘disappeared’ or moved or??

I’m not a happy ‘end user.’

Maybe I’m wrong about this, maybe this was a one time thing.  However, the last thing I want to have to do is say to friends, I’m running Ubuntu 12.04/Unity Version XXX.

There are things that worked in April that are not working consistently and reliably. Here are a few things that myself along with my friends have found:

-Wifi – I have to use dongles to get wifi. As an end user, I should not have to worry about driver issues. Within same house, windows computers will stay on line, Ubuntu ones will drop the connection without warning. The wireless router is within 10 feet of the computer.

-MP3s – Tunes sounding like damaged cds occasionally – never had a problem till 12.04 although it seems ok now.

-Shutdown Button – Often 12.04 will not shut down from the shutdown button . I have to kill it with the power button. Has never been a problem from 4.10 till 12.04, now it is.

-Software center – Will or will not install software at its discretion. I occasionally have to revert to Synaptic to install/uninstall software.

-Track pad – Right click working fine in April after updating in May can no longer right click

-U1 – syncing, syncing and syncing. U1 never seems to stop syncing and goes on for hours. Slows my internet to grinding snail’s pace so I constantly need to turn off U1 sync. Have been using the web portal versus the U1 folder in Home because its faster to drop/pull files via the web.

-Snapping – Sometimes it does sometimes it doesn’t.

-Frozen Windows – Several of my libre word docs got frozen and the only way to get out of it was to reboot the whole computer.


Now I know what you are going to say, ‘Have you filed those bugs into launch pad?’

Honestly, No.

Why Not? I personally find it a pain each time to open up a browser, log in to launch pad, search to see if has been reported, add my comment or start a new one.

If there was a button on the panel I could push and just log it quickly, I would do it more often. Generally when things don’t work, I’m in the middle of my ‘task’ and I need to get it done now so that I can get on with my ‘non-computer’ life.  I’m not thinking at the time, ‘Oh! Time for some bug reporting!’ I just tolerate the annoyance – knowing that I should report it but later. Turn off my computer and the next day it happens again. Argh…then I think to myself I should report it but then even if I do report it, I still have to wait for it to be fixed.

I don’t want to be known as an ‘end user complainer’ and thus will report these bugs this week.

I’ve been thinking to myself what has happened here? Why was I so happy with 10.10 that I shared it will everyone  – friends and family.

And now? Well I don’t recommend it and I can’t in good conscience. It’s not reliable or consistent for me and I would not want my friend to have ‘bad’ experience.

I’m starting to get the feeling that Ubuntu/Unity has turned into a developer’s playground at the expense of the user.

I understand software needs to be tested by users that’s how it gets better but when I dread turning on my computer each day because I don’t know what’s going to work today and what’s not  – that ‘s bad. That’s not going to help Ubuntu get 200 million users.

I’m the first person who hates to hear a person complain and I hate it when they don’t even try to come up with a resolution. So here is my suggestion – it’s only that. Have a stable release where updates, fixes are sent out periodically. Keep Unity stable – ie don’t change it mid-stream. Give this stable version the big fanfare and focus on selling it to the everyday user like me. Then have another version – the developer’s version for 12.04 where Unity versions can change and you can play in your playground and those who download it are given the big warning:  Tomorrow your experience could be different! You are probably thinking it’s already this way. We are in Quantel Quetzal.

Ok so then why is the document that was completed on April 29, 2012 out of date by May 5, 2012?

I volunteer my time to create documentation for end users. As a volunteer who started on that document in March 2012 only to find out, before its released on May 5, that it needs to be changed and it could change again after I’ve made the changes. This does not impress me.

Now what? I’m playing with some Ubuntu variants Kubuntu and Mint. Why? Because so far, they have been delivering the consistent experience that I’m not currently experiencing with Ubuntu/Unity.

I am by no means saying I would slander Ubuntu’s good name but I won’t promote it until I feel its a ‘positive’ experience that I would be happy to share with friends.

The only thing a User wants is a consistent and reliable experience day in and day out. Simple.

Everything else is just glitz and ‘nice to have.’

Remember as I stated at the beginning of this post – this is my opinion and my experience -with my limited knowledge and understanding of how things work.

What do I know anyways? I’m JUST the END USER.


19 thoughts on “Ubuntu/Unity 12.04 – Developer’s Playground?

  1. Pingback: Ubuntu developers: Charlene Tessier: Ubuntu/Unity 12.04 – Developer’s Playground? |

  2. ‘Just a user’ among devs can be a bit like a non-musician among musicians. I’m the non-musician, so at parties I tell musicians that I’m ‘audience’ and they light up…they *love* audience.

    Similarly, you’re not just a user. You’re a tester, a contributor, and an active community-member. That does count for a lot!

    Thank you for saying it. It needed to be said – little undocumented changes are annoying for everyone, which it why they’re supposed to be pushed off to next Ubuntu release (unless they’re a bugfix via SRU).

    A bug-night might be an appropriate in-person event for your LoCo. Use your community experience to your advantage! Help each other report, confirm, and triage your various bugs together.

    • Thanks for your analogy of the audience. I really liked it.

      I don’t mind being a tester, contributor but there is a time for that. Often there are days where I just want to get on my computer get my stuff done and not be worried about having to always be a tester. It’s a hard sell to a person new to Ubuntu and most don’t even understand or know the purpose of bug reporting. It took me a long time to understand it because it’s not ‘common’. And even now that I know I find bug reporting like something I have to do versus something I want to do. Maybe that’s the problem that needs to be resolved.

  3. Can you give an example of how Unity has changed in 12.04 since its release? It seems to be your main complaint, but you don’t point to anything. If it has, it’s certainly a violation of the stable release update policy. There shouldn’t be any user visible UI changes. In fact, there is a a “User Interface Freeze” long before final release. This is done specifically so that people who are creating documentation can reliably know what the final product will look like. It does seem strange that they used a major number change instead of a point release (5.10.1 vs 5.12). Though the changelog only seems to include bug fixes:

    • I didn’t write them down – now in hind sight I wish I did. Essentially on May 5 we had a group of Ubuntu users come to edit the documents. Some were running the Ubuntu live from the disc others had downloaded it but had installed updates recently. If you were running the live cd or had not done updates since your initial install versus those that had updated recently the location of some ‘buttons’ were different as well as the behavior. I only realized this when several guest editors asked me why the button in the manual was not in the same location as on their screen. When I came over to look at their screen it was in fact different. This is why we needed to put instructions on how to look up the version number of Unity in the document along with a statement in the other documents stating that you will need to check your Unity version because there could be differences between how the document instructs you versus how do it on your computer. Maybe it’s a behavior change but it still affects the documentation.

  4. I have stop upgrading my Ubuntu at 10.04. I am waiting to see if they get it worked out. If not I may switch to some other distro.

  5. There have been no behavioral change in Unity that we pushes in a SRU in 12.04. What you describe here are just bugs (even not related to Unity), remember Unity is “just” the graphical interface, it doesn’t handle your wifi connection, your trackpad, it’s not software-center, not u1 and less again libreoffice… So your regressions are in other SRUs, not in the Unity component itself.

    We take great care to not change the behavior of Unity itself, for obvious reason you describe, only pushing bug fixes that are tested by us and the whole community in precise-proposed for 7 days before getting valid. But please do not tend to the “there is a bug/regression here, it should be Unity”, Unity is not controlling the whole Ubuntu system…

    • I’m not upset with the Unity interface. Not once in my post did I state that. I don’t have a technical background so for me if I try to use the interface and things start going ‘off’ I don’t have the knowledge or skill set to understand what has happened. I can only describe my experience from my point of view which is one of user. Even if the behaviour of Unity has not changed and you state that it is the SRU (I don’t know this acronym and based on your comment, my understanding is, its the under working under the ‘Unity skin’). From a purely user experience perspective the interface (Unity) and SRU are intertwined. Trying to explain to a new user that its not the fault of Unity(interface) is hard concept to understand. I’m not faulting the interface. And even trying to respond to your comment is tough for me. Try to come around and see my side. I’m generally trying to be the most common of end users and I’m trying to get them onto Ubuntu and understanding Unity. This is already a hard sell and a very steep curve.

      • SRU stands for Stable Release Update, it’s the process that any new code has to go through in order to land in an already-released version of Ubuntu. The rules for when an SRU is allowed can be found here:

        Generally speaking, an SRU shouldn’t change elements of the UI, unless those elements were broken and the SRU fixes them.

  6. I’m a bit confused about the premise of this post.

    So Ubuntu 12.04 was released on April 26, and included Unity 5.10. Nothing changed in the days leading up to May 5. However, in the last twenty four hours, 5.12 has been released for everyone to get via a software update (it has been around for testing for some time). There will be no confusion about which version of Unity is being run – before long EVERYONE running 12.04 will be on 5.12.

    I welcome the release of 5.12. It’s not there to changes features (and hence make it hard for the documentation editors). Instead, it fixes a long list of bugs – we don’t want Unity to be crashing. And this is an LTS: many users are going to be stuck with this version of Unity for five years!

  7. Even Microsoft got it:
    You should make as less screen shots for documentation as possible. Of course the UI changes often, so screen shots are mostly out of date or even confusing.

    Integrate Bug-Reporting into the desktop isn’t a good idea IMO, because then many user will report stuff which isn’t a bug, but something they don’t understand / doesn’t work as in Windows / … This would need many more people to sort out the useful bug reports.

    And the “do it my way or I will switch to Mint/Kubuntu” isn’t going to help. Speaking about KDE and consistent experience.. haha..

    • As stated in my post, I gave one possible suggestion to improve bug reporting. It is by no means the solution, nor should it be. Rather time should be taken to explore and develop the idea. I merely wanted to show that I had taken the time to think about it even though the idea I presented requires additional thought and refinement.
      This post was merely my current experience with Ubuntu. I love sharing Ubuntu with friends and experience the difficulty and fear in converting them. If I can’t honestly say at this point in time I’m loving Ubuntu then I can not lie about that to friends and family. This does not mean that my stance would not change, maybe 12.10 will be a totally different experience. I was not stating that things need to be done ‘my way’. I have the freedom to choose which interface I would like to use. And for me to learn and gain a better understanding of Unity/Ubuntu , I can use Mint/Kubunutu/Lubunutu as a comparison tool. For me this is all a learning experience. If I can understand and explain in simple terms to my friends the differences between Ubuntu/Windows/Mac and the ability to have a different interface Unity/Mint/Kubuntu/Lubuntu that is a huge success for me. For the majority of readers here, all of this is ‘natural and normal’ it comes almost instinctively. This is not the case for myself or most of my friends that I struggle to teach.

  8. We don’t generally change things mid-cycle. The Unity update that was released after 12.04 was out was for bug fixes that weren’t going to be ready in time for release. To my knowledge, it didn’t introduce anything that would make the screenshots or documentation invalid (unless said screenshots or documentation highlighted one of the bugs being fixed).

    Also, most applications in Ubuntu still carry a “Report an issue…” item in their Help menu, this is something that we add to our packages. If an application crashes, you should me given a dialog to report the issue. There are situations where neither option is helpful, and if you can think of a better way of covering those I’m sure somebody would be willing to implement it.

  9. Pingback: UI Developer | JobDesk.ORG

  10. Ubuntu needs input from non-technical users. Don’t let negative feedback slow you down.

    By the way, Kubuntu and Mint have very different relations to Ubuntu. Kubuntu is another (KDE oriented) flavor developed as part of the Ubuntu project/distribution (it gets, in my experience, a bit confusing because there is Ubuntu the free software project, Ubuntu the Linux distribution, and Ubuntu desktop/server which are defined subsets of the Ubuntu Linux distribution). Mint is derived from Ubuntu the distribution and not co-developed within the Ubuntu project.

  11. Hello there

    I have used Linux since 1995 as a USER…I’m a IT consultant, but most of my work is in the MS sphere.

    Now – I really love your comments and I can not agree more.

    The challenge here is to get things working and make them stay working.

    I have upgraded to a new Ubuntu release, and then rolled back, so many times that I have lost count. The reason for the rollback is usually that there is something in the new release that do not work as it used to in the old release. I’ve given up on reporting the bugs as the answer is usually this is reported in bug this or that bla bla bla… After 10 or so of these – one do not care any more. One of the most irritating things happens after one have tested with the LiveCD and finally install the real thing – what worked with the LiveCD stop working when you install…..

    I’ve been lurking on planet ubuntu for a few years as well however I’ve not seen anyone come up with a FAST and EASY was for USERS to report bugs/errors…


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