In-Depth Roadmap Analysis For Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04

Update: Read the new version of this article revisiting all the ideas and current progress!

The Hardy Heron Roadmap has over 130 new ideas that have been proposed thus far. I’ve examined each one of these ideas in detail, threw out the ones that weren’t interesting to me, wrote an explanation for each, and sorted the list into three categories:

  1. User Experience,
  2. Networking and Security,
  3. Support

Of course, the juiciest items have already made headlines, such as the new theme that is being planned… “I for one, welcome our new hopefully non-brown themed overlords!”

What about the proposed changes that don’t deserve their own headline? Either you have to muck through that entire list, or you can simply read about it here. You can get more information about specific items by clicking on the name of the proposal, which will take you to a page that has a little bit more information about it. Without more from me, here we go.

User Experience

Ubuntu Theme for 8.04
We’re getting a new theme in the next release? Ubuntu has used close to the same theme since Warty Warthog – about 3 years, The REALLY interesting bit about this is how far this reaches… proposed changes include changes to the installer, bootup screen, wallpaper, application splash screens like Gimp and OO.org, Compiz effects, cursors, and even skinning WINE! This is going to be quite a bit of work, but in the end, well worth it.

Third Party Apt
Adding a 3rd party apt repository is more difficult than needed. Editing sources.list, or adding it to the software repository via GUI is a pain. This proposal focuses on creating a standardized file format (let’s call it .install file) which would allow a user to double click on the .install file, then apt would automatically install the program, add the 3rd party repository to the sources.list and automatically manage updates, etc. Very slick idea.

X.Org 7.3
This is something that SHOULD have been included in Gutsy Gibbon, but wasn’t quite ready… ah well, I guess we need to wait 6 months for this. The biggest feature of 7.3 are: Bullet Proof X – The driving force for this is to never boot up into text-mode if something is screwed up with the xorg.conf file. Very nifty. The direction this is headed is to make xorg.conf obsolete, and eventually run without it, which would be fantastic for new users.

Automatix-Ubuntu Team Collaboration
This is certainly a little bit controversial, since Automatix was raked over the coals for breaking upgrades to Feisty Fawn, and now they want to collaborate? Automatix makes stupid easy to install things that are in legal grey areas, such as codecs for playing commercial DVDs, or other proprietary software like Skype, Google Earth, etc. This idea would make it so that Canonical/Ubuntu does not have legal repercussions for including proprietary codecs or other software that isn’t redistributable.

Dual/Multi Monitor Gnome Configuration
Along with X.org 7.3, multiple monitor configuration within a GUI is going to be pretty awesome.

SlickBoot
This proposed change will give the distribution an improved user experience when booting up and shutting down. If you’ve ever seen a Mac boot up, you know exactly what this is trying to emulate. Transitions from the three graphical modes (text, SVGA, and high-resolution) are not really bad at the moment, but if Ubuntu can emulate how a Mac boots up, that would be pretty damn terrific.

Install on an existing filesystem without overwriting /home
This is by far one of the most annoying things that I have to deal with on a regular basis. Personally, I reinstall quite often to test out new distributions. Since getting an external 320GB drive it hasn’t been quite as painful, but for most people, they might need to backup the /home directory to avoid data loss when given the chance to upgrade every 6 months.

Improve Handling of Full Disks
Have you ever run out of hard drive space in Linux? Let me tell you, it is NOT pretty! In some cases, you can end up booting into text mode, with a read-only root partition. It is a royal pain in the ass, to say the least. This proposal is in the early stages, but suggests adding a notification that the disk is almost full, prompting you to run a cleanup wizard, and other ideas that make the problem less likely to happen in the first place, as well as (hopefully) making it easier to recover from if it does happen.

Integrate Prefetch into Bootup
Google’s 2007 Summer of Code is adding hard disk prefetching and optimization resulting in faster bootup times for Hardy Heron.

Easy File Sharing
Make sharing files between Ubuntu machines on a LAN/WLAN easier. Duh!

Single Click Install
Enable easier installation of software from the internet.

Add Remove Software Improvements
This proposes an update to the add/remove software program, which changes it into a sort of “online storefront” where the initial screen shows screenshots, top-rated or brand new applications, etc. If this is approved and pulled off properly, could be a HUGE improvement.

Simple Samba Integration
The Shared Folders utility is getting some upgrades. It will prompt the user to install Samba, no more adding users from the command line, and a simple checkbox will share all home directories on the computer.

Redesign About Ubuntu
“People are used to “About Name of Program” showing a window that gives the software version details, and copyright info. […] Ubuntu should be just as polished.” uname –r always worked just fine for me, but I can see why it’s important.

Networking / Security

Modular /etc/network/interfaces
“Split out the configuration from /etc/network/interfaces into one file per (logical) interface.” This is not a great idea, it’s a pain in the ass already to edit this and maintain correct syntax, why make it so that there are multiple files?

Dial Up Support
This will make setting up and managing Dialup and ASDL out-of-the-box, using Network Manager, very easy.

Improve support for encrypted file systems
Starting with Gutsy Gibbon, you can now install Ubuntu to an encrypted disk. The problem this addresses is adding support to install to a disk which would be auto-partitioned as an encrypted file system from the GUI, instead of using the text-mode alternate installer. Other ideas are to look for key files on USB sticks and other media, instead of just using a password.

Live CD- share this
Direct from the wiki: “Netboot server for easy setup of thin clients and machines which don’t have a CD drive.” Nice idea!

killall gksudo: Stop running GTK as root!
gksudo runs hundreds of thousands of lines of code just to show that that little box that asks for a password when trying to change administrative settings… and it is a little confusing to ask for the password before any changes are committed – why not stop asking for the password until the configuration tool tries to write to a file, then do it in a manner that doesn’t need to utilize as much code to speed things up a little bit.

Support

Measuring Download/Installation Success
In the next release, there may be some big-brother-ish ideas being included. It’s more accurate reporting that can give developers solid numbers for things like how many people download, install, and are able to run Ubuntu. The reason is to find faults in the existing procedures for acquiring Ubuntu, and address where problems arise. Hopefully these numbers will be shared with the community. One area I can already say is a significant problem is the lack of an integrated CD burner for Windows. I’ve heard many users say they’ve burned a copy of a distribution and then it didn’t boot. The primary reason for this is that they simply burned the ISO file itself to the CD, instead of burning the image properly. Now that Ubuntu is targeting a larger audience, it would be neat to have a Windows user simply download an EXE file, open it up, and it prompts to insert a new CD and then provides some additional instructions for getting it installed and setup, perhaps even give an option to print out a PDF of those instructions? The executable would also provide additional information that this proposal is suggesting be recorded.

Identifying Local Users and Groups
This would be really slick. After you put in your location( integrated into the Time Zone selection), during the installation (or post-install) you would be presented with information regarding your local LoCo team and other local resources, such as a Linux User Group in your area. I’ve never been to a LUG or LoCo meeting, perhaps because I needed to seek them out… getting a prompt every reinstall might be annoying, but it would be a good reminder that they exist.

Packaging Section On The Forum
There’s a hidden packaging section (http://ubuntuforums.org/forumdisplay.php?f=44) on the Ubuntu forums that needs to be better utilized. It is not a very active section in the forum, it either needs to be added to the main list of forums and promoted, or simply deleted.

Make screencasts available on the desktop
A Help->Tutorial Videos browser menu? This is a fantastic idea!

Forum Content Certification
Sometimes instructions provided in the forums just don’t work. Often, I’ll find a howto on installing some software for an old version of Ubuntu, and this would create a new forum team that would check the validity of instructions, approve the post, promote the information in the forums, wiki, and elsewhere, and finally involve re-checking the posts after new releases.

Getting teacher input to shape our education offering
This one implies that Edubuntu does not specifically solicit input from teachers, nor do users have a mailing list, forum, etc to voice their complaints. If this is the case, definitely a good idea to reach out and get feedback and suggestions from the people who actually use the OS, right?

Automatic bug reporting
This is certainly an interesting idea, but due to privacy concerns I don’t really want to see this make it into the release. Why emulate Windows here? It can be REALLY annoying to get MORE error popups when things crash.

Ubuntu Mobile Browser
The Ubuntu Mobile and Embedded Project proposes to add a Firefox-based browser which would be completely reworked from the ground up. I’m personally very interested in this, the following quote gave me chills: “Ideally we would get a solution that would be embraced by the Mozilla community and eventually adopted as the “Firefox Mobile” solution.”

Of course, I saved the best for last….

Installing Ubuntu from within Windows
ubuntu-install.exe… nuff said… might not make it though… it is listed as ‘dangling’ which means it can’t be scheduled or has circular dependancies… no idea why it can’t be made to work.

Which ideas do you want to see make it into Hardy Heron? Do you disagree with any of these I’ve listed? Got more to add?

  • jafry

    What about OpenJDK support in Ubuntu? any word on integrating the IcedTea fork by RedHat into the distribution? Any other enhancements on the Java front? Or .NET for that matter?

  • http://temporaryland.wordpress.com/ rm42

    How about allowing one to install printers shared by a remote CUPS server. That way we can just point to the server’s IP and all its printers are instantly available. This is currently very well done by Mandriva, if you want to take a peak.

    Also, better WPA2 support would be great. I currently can’t connect with Ubuntu to our WPA2 network at the office.

    Finally, can someone please implement the ability to rename files and folders withing a File Save/Open dialog box?

  • Mike B.

    The java script on your front page is freezing Firefox whenever I try to load it, thus making it necessary for me to reboot Ubuntu. I think you should check all those videos you posted for errors in scripting.

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  • D. Finley

    Some of us, possibly more than you think, can only install using the alternate installation. The graphic installer gives resolution options, but our monitors cannot use them for some reason. Low resolution prevents our reaching the bottom of the page and entering choices.

    This is not a big thing, but your graphic install CD might mention the problem and suggest the alternative. It takes some of us a long time to figure it out.

  • http://aranelsurion.org Aranel Surion

    I don’t like “bug reporting” idea, its very “windows-like”, we are not child, and we can use “bug reporting” or create a new bug in bugzilla’s.

  • paperkite

    Very nice article and ideas.

    When I install a software which I found to be not what I expected, It would be nice if by “completely uninstalling” it from Synaptic I also uninstall the dependencies that got installed with it.
    If this feature is already there, excuse me and advise. I’m a noob…

    I would also like the network manager to support static ips for vpn connections.

    I’d love the functionality of Finder from OSX, where the menu from each application in focus goes to the top of the desktop, where the hand’s “memory” is (in time) trained to quickly find and click the menus (or should this be a feature request for Gnome/GTK/Xfce?)

    Thanks for striving to keep things simple and intuitive.

  • http://ibeentoubuntu.com Daeng Bo

    Programs instaled through Aptitude do this automatically. You can also locate all these in the Status pane in Synaptic, then set to remove them.

  • ajmal

    Hey great post,
    i think there is more than that
    Missing good dvd burning software k3b is better,
    tv tuner,exaile like player,Tweak utility cause ill usually use
    ubuntu tweak to do little tweaking.

  • Steve Terek

    Hey guys,

    There are some really promissing things in this. Let me say, however, that I’ve been a newby at Linux for the last 10 years. Why? Because I haven’t come across a single distro that works “straight out of the box”. Who’s got the time to search thousands of threads to try to find the answer? And as for fragments code and commands… say no more.
    I refer to another contributor’s remark about Windows being full of bugs. I’ve never, in Windows, not been able to connect to the internet, not been able to set up a printer, not been able to set up a wireless network, not been able to print to a printer connected to another machine, etc.
    My last attempt was Gutsy, just recently. Samba is broken and unless one is an expert, the forums tell me bugger all.
    How about something like: boot, log on, hey look there’s a wireless network, hey look there are some machines on the network, hey look one of them is a Windows XP machine, hey look there’s a Canon printer connected to it, etc, all without any (or very limited) input from the user (AKA me).

    Good luck with the new distro.
    Regards,
    Steve

  • Kai

    Just thought that I’d add that I agree with the comments about manual partitions on install for /home directories. I learned early on that having a /home partition is not just an advisable idea, but practically mandatory for anyone who reinstalls their OS even once or twice. It saves an ENORMOUS amount of trouble. They should add a separate home partition to the guided install menu.

  • Matthias

    Just FYI.

    If you actually follow the links in this article you’ll see that most of the more notable features listed here are still drafts or proposals, so don’t get your hopes up too high for Hardy.

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  • clarky

    id just be happy if they fix the bug that causes ubuntu (multi distro’s) to go into screen saver mode while watching a video.

    when i say fix i mean so it goes away completly without changing it to 20 minutes and without editing the xconf file so it stays on ALL the time.

  • Theo

    This may be already implemented. I would not only like to see the /home fully protected – different partition maybe – but also some form of applications list automatically created and updated in the /home folder that allows simple recreation of the user data AND the supporting apps in the case of some form of OS meltdown.

  • Fred

    Hey,

    Sounds pretty much great. Just hope new features will not bring more bugs. Bugs is what is stopping me using Ubuntu in a fun (media/game) system. For servers it’s more than GREAT.

    Fix the bugs/issues FIRST, then go on is my opinion.

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